Activism has witnessed a rise in the recent years. There are a lot of groups that have come up to protect and protest for what they believe in. every activist’s group send messages across in their own unique ways. Different groups also stand for different things in society. Some of the groups have been associated with engaging in illegal hacking and disturbance of peace. Other groups have been associated with being the wheels of change that the society needs. All these activists groups however are known to stand for something, whether the society believes in them or not. Anonymous is one of the most known activist group that is known from all around the world. The group utilized the internet and hacking knowledge to hack into websites that they feel are oppressive. They are known to have launched a lot of cyber-attacks on different organizations by shutting down their websites. This essay will focus on the group and how they manipulate technology to bring about social changes around the world.
Anonymous is an associated international network of activists and hacktivists. Their name is inspired by the professed anonymity under which users post comments and comments on the internet. They stand for anti-cyber surveillance, anti-cyber censorship, internet vigilantism and internet activism. The group birth place is a website known as 4chan which was founded in 2003. The website developed a random section “anything goes” known as b/board, (Olson, 2012). 4chan.org is a website that allows people to share images and talk about them without using their names. /b/ is a web forum where posts have no author names and there are no archives. They are known for numerous attacks on the cyber and most of them have been arrested. The group was however associated with hacktivism for the first time in 2008 when they took action against the Church of Scientology. The project termed as ‘project chanology’ saw the group hack into their website by launching a DDoS attack and sending black faxes that was meant to waste the ink cartilages.
They have a website that is associated with them. The website describes them as “an internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives,” (Kelly Brian, 2012). The anonymous group also known as the Anons are opposed to internet censorship and control. They often target organizations, the government and other establishments that are accused of censorship. The Anons believe in a free world and a world where there should be freedom of all kinds. They therefore stand for anti-cyber surveillance and anti-cyber censorship. They believe that people should be free to post whatever they want in the internet without being constantly watched. The group is also aiming at bring down any corporations that are involved in any type of corruption, homophobic actions or infringing on people’s rights. If the group perceives that any organization or government are oppressing anyone then they rise above it and protest against it. They can protest by either hacking into their websites, sending them DDoS, prank calls or physically protesting.
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Anyone who wants to join anonymous just needs to declare that they are anonymous. There are no measures or rules of joining the group. All one has to do is declare that they belong to the group. It can therefore be said to be a large group that works together for various reasons. The group however has rules that guide them. These rules include not disclosing one’s identity, not talking about the group and not attacking the media. The group remains to be a leaderless group of hackers and activists who come together in response of perceived injustices and work together until the operation is over, (Casserly Martyn, 2015). They have no meetings or anything and this might be the reason why they have remained anonymous for so long. The members are characterized by their Guy Fawkes masks. The masks were popularized during the raid of church of scientology on February 10, 2008.
Their way of communication is mostly modern. They use their websites affiliated to them including www.whyweprotest.com, www.anonews.co and www.minds.com. They post their news and happenings in these website when they want to communicate anything to the larger public. The websites are also used to enlighten people about their various plans and to mobilize people. The group also have Facebook account in which they use to dispense news and also as a source of news to the rest of the world. The group mostly achieve its results by hacking into the systems of their target. The launches Distribute Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against the websites of its target. This is an attempt that makes a machine or network unavailable to its users. It can cause temporal disruptions or they can also be permanent disruptions. The attack source is normally more than one making it impossible for the user to access to access the network. There are several avenues that are utilized by the hackers including the Internet Relay Chat.
The Internet Relay Chat (IRC) is where the hackers congregate. This is a site that facilitates communication in terms of texts. On this site they discuss strategy, plan attacks and comment on the happenings that they have their eyes on. The group also utilizes Pirate Pad which they use to coordinate their actions, pick targets and write their manifestos. The IRC is however where most of the coordination occurs. There are avenues everywhere that the group utilizes in order to achieve their goals. In these chatrooms they talk about what organizations they want to target and the reasons for their attack. Many attacks are given life in these chatrooms. Some of the ideas that are born here are not always the best.
The group has been involved in a lot of operations that did not go well with many people. These include the operation payback where they targeted PayPal, Visa and MasterCard companies because the hackers did not agree with their views. However the group has not be all bad. It has helped a lot when it comes to social changes. They are able to restructure bad situations to become better situations. At the start of 2011 the types of attacks that were carried out by the group started to diversify. They have known to attack organizations that are homophobic. In February 2011, they launched an attack on Westboro Baptist Church which was picketing funerals with “God hates Fags” signs, (Olson, 2012). They published their phone numbers, home addresses and brought down the website godhatesfags.com. Here they were protecting the rights for everyone because they believe no one should be discriminated or denied the right to express themselves.
In October 2011, the group brought down a website that encouraged children pornography. The pornography site known as ‘Lolita` city’ that was hosted by Freedom Hosting was responsible for child pornography. The usernames were published by the group and at the same time disabled other image-swapping pedophile websites. They also leaked information about other child pornography sites. Child pornography is morally and legally wrong. When the group takes up itself to bring down such websites it can be said that the website is doing commendable work to bring about positive social changes in the world. The group has been involved in many more attacks protesting unfair treatment. They even protested the shooting of the young black man who was shot even though he was unarmed in Ferguson in 2014, (Bever, Lindsey, 2014).
The group continue to face a lot challenges. Many are the times some of the members of the movement have been arrested but that did not deter the spirit of the group. Many people have been arrested for being involved in the anonymous group activities including anonymous cyberattacks. In an article in The Guardian, Halliday Josh (2013) listed people affiliated to the group who have jailed because of cyberattacks. According to Halliday four men were prosecuted for attacking anti-piracy and financial institutions between the years 2010 and 2011. The group has no leadership and all the actions that are taken by the anonymous cannot be attributed to the group at large. Some of the members may follow legal laws while others will do as they please because they have their freedom.
There is a challenge that comes with a group being anonymous. As earlier stated anybody can join the movement just by declaring that they belong to the group. This can bring about a lot of conflict. People can do things and allege that they are with the movement but they are not. When people not affiliated to the group do something that is not acceptable, the group might be forced to take the fall for the actions. A good example is when the name of the anonymous cop who shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson. The group called for protests against the police and promised to name the name of the anonymous cop. The name that was released did not match the cop who had shot the young man. Reports later indicated that it was not anonymous who released the name of the officer. This can be quite a challenge to the group especially when it comes to the fact that they are anonymous. Anybody can therefore claim to be a member of the group.
As activism continues to be alive so does anonymous group of activists and hacktivists. Anonymous has been involved in many controversial protests. The police have tried to track them down and they succeeded in arresting a section of them. As Casserly (2015) notes the group is quite difficult to get rid of. The police have tried to flash them out but they still come back. This could be due to the fact that they have their roots deep in many parts of the world and it would be impossible to get rid of them. According to Olson (2012) the group might not go away anytime soon. Just at the mention of the word ‘anonymous’ there is fear on the victim’s end. It is a powerful group that is not going anywhere anytime soon. Olson notes that the imagery might change but the group will continue to exist.
Bever L. (2014) Amid Ferguson Protests, Hacker Collective Anonymous Wages Cyberwar The Washington Post retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/08/13/amid-ferguson-protests-anonymous-hacktivists-wage-cyberwar accessed 3 March 2016
Casserly M. (2015) Who is Anonymous? A Short History of Hacktivism as Anonymous steps up to Take on IS and the KKK, We Look at the Concept of Computer Hacking for a Just Cause PC Advisor retrieved from www.pcadvisor.co.uk/feature/internet/what-is-hacktivism-short-history-anonymous-lulzsec-arab-spring-3414409/ accessed 3 March 2016
Halliday J. (2013) Anonymous Hackers Jailed for Cyber Attacks The Guardian retrieved from www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jan/24/Anonymous-Hackers-Jailed-for-Cyber-Attacks accessed 3 March 2016
Kelly B. (2012) Investing in a Centralized Cybersecurity Infrastructure: why Hacktivism can and Should influence Cybersecurity reform Boston University Law Review Vol.92 No.5 pp 1663-1710
Olson P. (2012) We are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency Hachette Digital Inc.