After the unspeakably depressing mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday, Westboro drove its flag of awfulness even deeper into the cortex of basic civility, by announcing that they would be protesting the vigils for the victims of the Connecticut shootings in order “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment." Executing his judgment against innocent children at the hands of an assault rifle wielding insane person? Holy shit, right? Well, certain members of Anonymous felt like that too, so they proceeded to launch a virtual offensive against the church, which led to the public service announcement embedded below and the release of personal information on Westboro Church leaders.
The FBI released a statement today which said that 14 people had been arrested in relation to their alleged involvement in cyber attacks on PayPal's website, with responsibility claimed by the hacker collective Anonymous. Two other people were arrested on cyber-related charges.
"Also today, FBI agents executed more than 35 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation into coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations"
It's no surprise that WikiLeaks is partnering with Anonymous. After companies, including Amazon and PayPal, withdrew their support for WikiLeaks after the release of U.S. State Department cables in December 2010, Anonymous launched distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against PayPal and a Swiss bank. Anonymous activists have been strong supporters of the Free Bradley Manning campaign. Manning is the U.S. Army private who is alleged to have leaked the cables to WikiLeaks.
As Salon noted last month, Anonymous launched an attack on Ohio’s Steubenville High School football players accused of gang raping a 16-year-old girl who was unconscious during a night of parties.
KnightSec, an arm of the hacker collective that specifically targets rapists, demanded a public apology be issued to the young woman and warned that it would release personal information of Big Red football players and staff who have defended the accused young men.
Corporate and government websites aren’t Anonymous' only targets. Last year Anonymous hacktivists took down 40 child pornography sites and published the names of over 1,500 people who frequented them as part of Operation Darknet. A number of Anonymous activists also took part in Occupy protests, and expressed their support for the aims of the grassroots movement.
As of yet, no one outside of Anonymous and the federal government can say exactly what’s in the cracked documents, and in an open letter, Anonymous announced its demands for keeping it that way. It mainly called for reforms to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 1986 statute that outlines criminal penalties for accessing “without authorization” a “protected computer.” Outlawing digital trespassing seems perfectly reasonable, but courts have interpreted unauthorized access as any violation to a site’s terms of service—those rules outlined in small print just above the “I accept” box.
In December 2010, Anonymous had waged a campaign of cyberattacks on the Web sites of multinational companies and other organizations that it deemed hostile to the WikiLeaks antisecrecy organization and its jailed founder, Julian Assange. Within 12 hours of a British judge’s decision to deny Mr. Assange bail in a Swedish extradition case, attacks on the Web sites of WikiLeaks’s “enemies” caused several corporate Web sites to become inaccessible or slow down markedly.
In January 2012, Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the United States Justice Department and several major entertainment companies and trade groups in retaliation for the seizure of Megaupload, one of the most popular so-called locker services on the Internet that allowed users to transfer large files like movies and music anonymously. The Federal Bureau of Investigation charged seven people connected to Megaupload with running an international criminal enterprise centered on copyright infringement.
“To the citizens of the United States of America: We are Anonymous,” a synthesized voice announces. “This is a special emergency message regarding the status of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. CISPA has passed the legislature. We are calling upon the citizens of the United States to physically protest. This includes all the Occupy movement. Our rights are being taken away.”
This was Anonymous' message against CISPA mid-2012, which was intended to limit file sharing on the internet. During this time Anonymous also went against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act. Neither of these bills have officially entered into law, though megaupload has been shut down and its founder arrested.
In the UAE it is now illegal to wear a Guy Fawkes mask, the iconic symbol of the international hacktivist collective known as Anonymous. The clear implication of the new law is that the UAE government fears the power of the mask, and the Anonymous collective the mask represents.
According to Housh, the suggestion to use the Fawkes mask as protest gear was almost immediate. But some Anons weren’t convinced that the Fawkes mask was right, so they made a short list of alternatives: a Batman mask, classic masquerade masks, a few others. “Then we called comics and costume shops, all over the world,” Housh says, checking availability and price, and the V mask won out: “It’s available, it’s cheap, and it’s in every city.” (The actual Fawkes had “nothing to do with it, for us,” Housh says.)
Anonymous traces its roots to the infamous /b/ message board on 4Chan.org. Much of the communication on the board takes place in the form of rapid-fire, freewheeling, and often blatantly offensive images and remarks from legions of individuals posting anonymously, riffing on, insulting, and trying to top each other. The most familiar (and misleadingly innocuous) meme to emerge from this iteration-obsessed corner of the Internet is the lolcat phenomenon. 4Chan has been around since 2003, and it’s hard to pin down when and to what degree some of the people posting as Anonymous began to think of themselves as a de facto entity of the same name.
Anonymous is a loosely affiliated group of activist computer hackers who got their start years ago as cyberpranksters, an online community of tech-savvy kids more interested in making mischief than political statements.
Anonymous is a nebulous network. It has no hierarchy, no leadership, and no official membership. Participants flux in and out of constantly changing Internet Relay Chats (IRCs), where operations are proposed, deliberated, and sometimes launched. It’s much more of a tool for emergent phenomena than any kind of strict political organization. Emergence, in its techno-jargon use, describes how complex systems arise from a great number of individual components.