A is for Anonymous

Data Security Weekly


The movie "V is for Vendetta" became a cult favorite soon after its release in 2006.   The film follows the adventures of a masked vigilante set on sparking a revolution against a futuristic London now under totalitarian rule.  The film's main character wears a Guy Fawkes mask to hide his identity.  Guy Fawkes famous for being part of a failed plot to blow up the British Parliament. His act of rebellion and the popular book and movie inspired the use of the Guy Fawkes mask as the symbol of the hacktivist group Anonymous.


Anonymous is a loose organization of random virtual gathering of anarchists, activists and others devoted to their cause.  Anonymous has been in the news this past week as they have targeted a variety of groups and organizations for actions the members viewed as corrupt or illegal. 


Anonymous hacktivism campaigns are something that all corporate and public organizations should take note of and be aware of for the long-term.


One of the first targets this week for Anonymous was the Police Depart of the City of Oakland, California.  Anonymous took action after a young Iraq War veteran was wounded by police action while breaking up an "Occupy Oakland" demonstration. The projectile shot from a police weapon fractured the vet's skull.  


To retaliate against the Oakland police, the hacktivists launched a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on October 27th against the department’s website, flooding it with large volumes of traffic effectively shutting it down.  In addition to this hacking, Anonymous began to post personal information about certain Oakland police offers to Pastebin, including badge numbers, phone numbers, emails and on-duty schedules.


In what may be considered a more altruistic move, Anonymous posted the IP addresses of 190 people allegedly found to have illegal sexual images of kids on their computers.  This was the group’s latest effort in their so-called "OpDarknet," a month-long campaign to purge the Internet of child pornography sites hosted on the “darknet. " Darknet sites are traditionally used to host and trade child pornography or offer other illegal services, such as fake IDs and steroids.


Anonymous’ other big hacking campaign in recent days was their announcement that they were targeting one of the most violent Mexican drug cartel — Zeta.  Anonymous announced it will expose the identities of the syndicate and its supporters in retaliation for the alleged kidnapping of an Anonymous hacktivist.  The group demanded that Zetas release the unnamed Anonymous hacker, or face the exposure of the cartel's so-called friends -- the identities of the journalists, taxi drivers and police officers complicit in allowing the Zetas to thrive.

They have given the Zetas until November 5th to comply.  This date falls in line with the groups’ views and lore.  The 5th of November is Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of the 1604 attempt by Guy Fawkes to blow up Westminister in London.


Governments, businesses and other organizations should not view this shadowy group as an outlier.  This is a loosely defined group with no real ties or bonds.  There are many hacktivists from around the world with varying beliefs and affinities. It would only take a single hacker who becomes enraged by an inequality or action to sound the call for other hackers to join forces with them to exact revenge on any government entity, individual or large corporation.  If they have the will, they seem to find the way to disrupt services, expose private data and may even take the step to divulge government secrets.


As Anonymous proliferates, companies, government entities and individuals should remain alert, aware and to take action to guard against these cyber attacks.