We live in a world of technology, a place where everything is digitized, even crime. So in this new era of our world, it is very appropriate that activism leaps into this domain. The biggest name in this digital hacktivism, hackers + activism, is Anonymous. Anonymous was also named as one of the top 100 most influential people by Time Magazine 2012. But unfortunately, many of us are still unaware about the work that this organization does and how it has impacted the world. In this short article, we shall look at What is Anonymous? – The hacktivists that target the elite, from their early days in 2008 to the recent video on George Floyd’s murder.
How did it begin?
This group, which is highly unorganised and without any hierarchy began its footprints in an online imageboard site 4chan.org. On this site, users post content to mostly entertain or offend the world. The posters would either use their name or post under no name and be tagged as ‘anonymous’, which was the chosen tag for many posters. It all began as a joke.
The community soon took over the identity of Anonymous with two identifying images, Guy Fawkes’ mask, inspired from V for Vendetta, a brilliant activism movie of 2005 and a man in a suit without a face.
Over the years they have targeted various governments, been part of many protests and stood up against various crimes, including targeting organisations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda. They are faceless, they don’t have a single leadership structure, in fact, the individuals of the group are unknown to the world and even to the members. They take down sites, help out in internet freedom in countries where that freedom is being taken away. They are the new heroes of the modern-age activism.
It all began with…
Their first major work of hacktivism was executed in 2008, when a video uploaded on YouTube, which was leaked from the Church of Scientology on January 14th. The video showed Tom Cruise, laughing hysterically and speaking about the benefits of the religion. The video portrayed the church in a very shady light. And thus, the video was quickly removed from the site, on the claims of copyright infringement made by the Church.
In response to the removal of the video, a video was uploaded to YouTube titled ‘Message to Scientology’, starting the Project Chanology. It came along with a press release, which explained the intentions behind the Project Chanology.
The release covered why Scientology is a dangerous organization, as it has been known to exploit its members financially and threaten the ones that decide to leave along with other illegal activities. The release also stated that the removal of Tom Cruise’s video was an infringement on Freedom of Speech as the video was portraying the truth and nothing more.
During the same month a DDoS attack was launched on Scientology website while simultaneously, Anonymous called for a protest against Scientology Church across the globe on 10Th February. These protests grew in number during that year and protestors work Guy Fawkes’ mask during the protest, symbolizing Anonymous.
This went on to become a long list of attacks on various governments and corporation, some of the major ones are mentioned here.
In 2009, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected as president of Iran, triggering protests across the country. To aid the protests during the government’s attack on the internet, Anonymous Iran was formed. It was a collaboration between Anonymous and The Pirate Bay, yes the notorious torrent site. The government was trying to hide the world news from the country but the Anons (Anonymous Group) gave them a safe haven offering tips on how to navigate the internet privately, how to upload files bypassing Iranian Firewalls and launching attacks on pro-government websites.
In 2010, the Australian Government was in the process of making pornography featuring female ejaculation or small-breasted women (as by their standards only underage women have small breasts) illegal. In response to this Anons launched a DDoS attack on various govt. sites.
In the same year, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) hired AIPLEX to launch a DDoS attack on The Pirate Bay and other similar sites. To this, the Anons responded:
To whom it may concern,
This is to inform you that we, Anonymous, are organizing an Operation called “Payback is a bitch”. Anonymous will be attacking the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), the MPAA (Motion Pictures Association of America), and their hired gun AIPLEX for attacks against the popular torrent and file-sharing site, the Piratebay (www.thepiratebay.org). We will prevent users to access said enemy sites and we will keep them down for as long as we can. But why, you ask? Anonymous is tired of corporate interests controlling the internet and silencing the people’s rights to spread information, but more importantly, the right to SHARE with one another. The RIAA and the MPAA feign to aid the artists and their cause, yet they do no such thing. In their eyes is not hope, only dollar signs. Anonymous will not stand this any longer. We wish you the best of luck.
We are legion.”
They did as they claimed.
The next target of Operation Payback were the giants Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, the Bank of America and Amazon. This was done to counter the blocking of donations to Wikileaks, a website to safely post about insider information against corrupt Governments for a whistle-blower.
By now you must be curious to know what the hell is the DDoS attack? As the AntiVirus Giant Norton says,
‘A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is one of the most powerful weapons on the internet. When you hear about a website being “brought down by hackers,” it generally means it has become a victim of a DDoS attack. In short, this means that hackers have attempted to make a website or computer unavailable by flooding or crashing the website with too much traffic.’
Tunisia and Egypt
In 2011, Anons brought down the Tunisian Stock Exchange and Tunisian Ministry of Industry’s websites by another DDoS attack in response to govt.’s move to censor the internet and detain many internet activists. Using the same attack they brought down Egyptian Govt.’s website for a similar reason.
In the second quarter of 2011, Sony became the target of the next major attack. This attack brought down Sony’s PlayStation network in support of GeoHot who posted on the internet how to jailbreak and mod Sony’s PS3s.
Occupy Wall Street
During this movement, Anons played a major role in promoting the event and helping them create a more secure site after the site was taken down repeatedly by hackers. They also helped identify a cop involved in brutality. This particular event was not a big show of Anons.
This is an attack that is named to Anonymous but hardly seems like something the actual organization would do.
The 9gag’s site was uploaded with many many unsuitable images including child pornography. Then it was marketed on various platforms that 9gag is a place for such content, along with a DDoS attack. This attack was reasoned to be done in response to legion formed called ‘9gag army’, a rip off of Anonymous.
In 2012, the Nigerian govt. repealed fuel subsidy and in turn affected their entire population that depended on it for their very existence as the repeal cause immediate increase int the price of fuel and transportation. In response, Anonymous joined hands with People’s Liberation Front and Naija Cyber Hacktivists of Nigeria promising a ‘relentless and devastating assault upon the web assets of the Nigerian Government’.
CIA and Interpol
In retaliation to their attempts to jail Anons, Anonymous took down CIA servers for a couple of hours and Interpol’s website was taken down for some time.
With a failed attempt in 2011, in 2012 Anons took down the official website of Vatican Church which they deem corrupt as a sign of protest. To be clear stated that they were against the corrupt Church and not the followers.
485 Chinese government websites were taken down as a sign of protest against their treatment of their citizen.
In 2012, Anons attacked the websites of Indian Supreme Court and the ruling party, Congress, in retaliation to their blocking of popular video sites and file-sharing sites.
Uganda and LGBT
Anons took down two Govt, sites as a protest against the country’s strict anti-LGBT laws.
Steubenville, Ohio, Rape Case
In 2013, Anons released incriminating video, photos and tweets from Steubenville High School football team, allegedly involved in gang rape of an underage girl. They also released the emails and photos of the person who helped in the cover-up.
Swartz had been accused of stealing materials from MIT with intent to distribute them freely. Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit and an activist, had reportedly committed suicide after that. Anons attacked the United States Sentencing Commission’s website as a sign of solidarity with Swartz.
Anonymous posted a video in response to the fatal shooting of unarmed African America teenager, Mike Brown. They claimed to take revenge if any of the protestors demonstrating in Ferguson, Missouri, USA were harmed
In 2014, Anonymous hacked Philippine government websites, in protest of the incompetence of the government officials in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda. They attacked 43 websites and released details of 2000 users on Pastebin.
A video released by Anonymous said “message for al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and other terrorists – we are declaring war against you, the terrorists.” Along with this, a group under the name of Anonymous began attacking ISIS’s social media accounts and their online recruitment drives, destroying their months of recruitment work. The group released a statement “ISIS, We will hunt you, Take down your sites, accounts, emails, and expose you. From now on, no safe place for you online… You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure… We own the internet… We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget, Expect us.”
Operation Darknet Relaunch
More than 10,000 tor based websites’ visitors were greeted with a message that Freedom Hosting II, a tor site hosting service, has been hacked. Anonymous claimed that more than 50% of the data stored, contained child pornography.
This is the latest video issued by Anonymous in retaliation to the murder of George Floyd by the hand of Cop in the Minneapolis Police Department. I shall leave you with the video of their new effort in support of Black Lives Matter Movement.