From scientologists to a government trying to ban Twitter, to a president’s wife dealing in diamonds, Anonymous has gotten involved, making it clear that corruption, hypocrisy and censorship are not okay.
We recently looked at the history behind this international hacktivist group. Foresight Advisory Services’ Heine van Niekerk now explores some of the group’s most notorious acts over the last few years.
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1. Scientology attacked
In 2008, Anonymous began a trolling campaign against the Church of Scientology. The group declared war via a YouTube video after the Church’s legal team tried to force websites to take down a leaked internal promotional video starring Tom Cruise. This marked the beginning of a sustained campaign of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and phone pranks, culminating in a physical protest involving over 10,000 people outside Scientology offices around the world, writes Martyn Casserly in an article on the subject on PC Advisor.
2. Operation Titstorm
In February 2010, the Australian government was in the process of passing legislation that would make pornography featuring small breasted women illegal, explains the Infosec Institute in an article entitled ‘A History of Anonymous’. In response, Anonymous engaged in Operation Titstorm, using DDoS attacks to bring down various Australian websites.
3. Operation Payback
In September 2010, Operation Payback was launched, involving a series of DDoS attacks against the Indian software firm AIPLEX, as well as the RIAA and MPAA, in response to a hired DDoS attack against The Pirate Bay, a popular file-sharing site. This campaign expanded to other targets, including the companies that cancelled services to the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, namely PayPal, Mastercard, Bank of America, and Amazon, amongst others.
4. Zimbabwean diamonds
In mid-December, The Standard reported that the wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, Grace Mugabe, profited from illegal diamond mining. The information was revealed via a cable leak to WikiLeaks. Mrs. Mugabe sued The Standard for $15 million, reported news agency Al Jazeera. By New Year’s Eve, Anonymous had brought down Zimbabwean websites via DDoS attacks in response to Zimbabwean government corruption, reports the Infosec Institute.
5. Arab Spring
In 2011, the Tunisian government tried to restrict the internet access of its citizens. In response, Anonymous DDoS attacks brought down the Tunisian Stock Exchange and the Tunisian Ministry of Industry. Tunisian president Ben Ali’s servers were hacked and the information sent to Wikileaks. The group also provided Tunisians with tools to avoid detection while online. “Finally the dictatorship toppled under the weight of online attack, social media broadcasts of the conditions, and powerful civil protest from the Tunisian people,” says Casserly. This marked the beginning of Anonymous’ work in the political realm.
Following their success in Tunisia, Anonymous’ next target was the Egyptian government after it blocked its citizens from accessing Twitter. “Again Anonymous and Telecomix worked hard to ensure that the footage of protesters clashing with aggressive government forces in the streets reached audiences outside the country,” says Casserly. Reflecting the mood of the streets, “it is decided from the outset not to attack media website or to promote violence,” explains Mohammed Haddad on an interactive timeline on Al Jazeera. They also assisted Egyptians in gaining access to sites that were being censored by the government. “When President Mubarak eventually ceded power, those that had fought with the Egyptian people in the digital realms knew that although their role wasn’t pivotal in the overthrow, it was certainly significant,” adds Casserly.
7. Tit for tat with security firm
Also in 2011, Aaron Barr, CEO of security firm HBGary Federal, claimed to have infiltrated Anonymous and threatened to release the information in a press conference. In retaliation, Anonymous embarked on a particularly ‘lulzy’ (for the sake of laughs) operation. “Anonymous responded by hacking HBGary Federal’s site, stealing 71,000 emails from the company and its sister firm HBGary, and defacing Barr’s Twitter account,” explains Andy Greenberg in his article on Forbes. After three weeks of online torment, Barr resigned.
8. Occupy Wall Street
Anonymous expressed support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in 2011, with a video post on YouTube. Although Occupy was not an Anonymous plan, and Anons were far from a majority of the movement, their support helped to bring lots of media attention. “Moreover, Anonymous’ support helped to lend a sense of power that U.S. protest movements in recent decades have lacked, namely, the implication that Occupy was capable of serious retaliation if authorities crossed a line,” explains Quinn Norton in an article on Wired.
Last month, Anonymous knocked 43 Israeli government websites offline, reported International Business Times. This was in response to the killing of 14-year-old Orwah Hammed by the Israeli Defence Forces on 24 October. In a statement published to coincide with the attacks, Anonymous said: “The world will not stand by such brutality. Israeli Government beware for you should have Expected us.”
10. Hong Kong hacked
In October, Anonymous publicly announced its support of the pro-democracy protests taking place in Hong Kong and began hacking various government-owned websites, reported Jeremy Blum on www.scmp.com. “To the protesters in Hong Kong, we have heard your plea for help… To the Hong Kong police and any others that are called to the protests… if you continue to abuse, harass or harm protesters, we will continue to deface and take every web-based asset of your government offline. That is not a threat. It is a promise,” the group said in a YouTube video.
Where will they strike next? Who knows, but as they once said of themselves: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
By Heine van Niekerk, CEO, Foresight Advisory Services
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