'Hactivists': faceless threat or caped crusaders?

'Hactivists': faceless threat or caped crusaders?
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No organisation is too big to hack. Sony, Visa, Google, the IMF, the governments of Turkey and Spain and the CIA have all had their security breached in recent months, and with worrying ease. After the announcement by computer hacking group LulzSec that it was joining forces with a large umbrella group of hackers known as Anonymous in an operation called AntiSec, euronews used the chat room of the operation to talk to its supporters.

The aim of Operation AntiSec is to “piss off the governments as much as possible, cause embarrassment and irreversible damage, weaken reputations, and open people’s eyes in an attempt in the long term to cause real life revolution,” according to a hacker who spoke in private chat and asked for his ID to remain, well, anonymous.

“An end to corruption and a transparent government where secrets aren’t kept from the people. This, of course, is very long term, and we’re nowhere near achieving it yet, but you have to start somewhere, and raising awareness and full-scale cyber war is a good start, but most importantly, to discredit the corrupt banks and governments that rule us.”

A video was released by Anonymous on YouTube on June 21:


But what is Anonymous and how is it organised?

“Hacking is free for all, and just done under the “ANONYMOUS” banner. Anonymous is not just, it’s everyone and everything, you’ll find us on forums, chats, social networks and even in the media,” the hacker said.

“Anonymous is more a philosophy than an organisation and until governments get their heads around that concept, they don’t stand a chance. They can arrest a few of us, but they can’t put our philosophy behind bars.”


The political side of Anonymous came to prominence with Anonymous Iran that was formed in response to the brutal behaviour of the Iranian regime in the days after the June 2009 disputed presidential elections. Hacktivists continue their opposition in #OpIran.

Operation Iran’s founder, known by the ID of Arash, said they took down several Iranian websites on June 21, including those belonging to the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and one for the Revolutionary Guards’ paramilitary force, the“Basij”

“People motivate each other and set targets” in chat rooms, according to the Iranian hacker Arash. “It’s an open policy, an open philosophy: you ask people ‘what’s your idea about attacking at the anniversary of Neda’s death?’” he gave as an example.
“The fight goes on,” Anonymous said in the video that it released for the second anniversary of the Iranian elections:


With a chain of attacks in support of whistle blowing website WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange in December 2010, Anonymous added to its hacktivist credentials.

The cyber savvy affiliates of Anonymous began a campaign against the website of the Swedish prosecutor’s office which had issued an arrest warrant against Assange on rape charges. MasterCard, Visa and PayPal were also attacked during Operation Payback because they had stopped accepting donations for WikiLeaks.

Since 2008 there have been Anonymous protests in the physical world in which members wore Guy Fawkes masks similar to those used in the film V for Vendetta.


But hacking is not only about activism and good causes. Banking data in the wrong hands may mean loss of money for civilian account holders, while leaking personal information could lead to many unforeseen effects.

Another hacker, a supporting member of LulzSec, said he was aware of the danger.

“That is if people learn to do things on their own and steal and leak those identities, but they are not part of LulzSec,” he said. “I don’t honestly believe that people who mean harm with this will have the patience and/or competence to actually help us.”

By Ali Sheikholeslami
London Correspondent