“We are Anonymous, We are legion, We do not forget, We do not forgive, Expect Us.”
We all have grown up reading stories of Robin hood- how he defied the law, robbed the rich and cared for the poor. We all have seen Zorro, Batman and various other vigilantes fighting for what they seem right. We saw and we idolised them. But as we grew up, most of us gave up on their ideas, tagging them too unrealistic and eventually started to accept the world the way it is. We forgot that there is an anarchist , a rebel, a revolutionary in all of us that wanted to set things right. But sometimes legends and stories ignite a fire in some people that illuminates the whole world. This is about- Anonymous, an International vigilante group that stands for rights and freedom. Anonymous doesn’t have a face, it hides behind a mask, because behind the mask there isn’t a face but an idea.
What is Anonymous?
Anonymous describes itself as “an internet gathering” with “a very loose and decentralised command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives”. They are majorly constituted of “Hack-tivists” and Activists that target governments, organisations, corporations and terrorist groups accusing them of violating freedom and rights of the citizens. There is no leadership in Anonymous thus there is no strict philosophy, it is a crowd that works together and does things for various purposes.
But there are rules and as the name suggests, they are to remain Anonymous. Members of the group are called ‘Anons’ and wear ‘Guy Fawkes masks’. Whereas some hail them as digital Robin Hoods, while others treat them as cyber terrorists. In 2012 Time called Anonymous one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Their Modus opperandi is publicising their activities and using DDoS attacks on their targets. They first came to the limelight through their Project Chanology. On January 15, 2008, Gawker posted a video online of Tom Cruise praising the religious views of Scientology. The Church sued them for violation of Copyright. Hacktivist Anonymous, posted a video online in protest, saying “For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind—for the laughs—we shall expel you from the Internet”. They launched DDoS attacks against the Scientology websites, bringing them down, prank called their hotline and sent black faxes. Operation Avenge Assange was carried out to back Wikileaks. They targeted PayPal, MasterCard and Visa, in response to cutting of services to Wikileaks.
They brought down the websites of PayPal, disrupted sites of Visa and MasterCard. It cost PayPal a damage of US$5.5 million. In 2011 Anons started to support the Arab Spring revolution, they made a script that Tunisians could use to protect their web browsers from government surveillance. They hacked the Tunisian Prime minister’s website and brought down several government websites. In Egypt, they helped people in accessing government-censored websites. Several times Anons have targeted homophobic organisations and have exposed them by leaking their controversial documents online. Anons participated in ‘Occupy Wall street’ protest and helped it expand. Anons have launched an undergoing operation called Operation Dark net where they targeted ‘Child Pornography’ websites and publicly shamed its users by releasing their names on the internet.
In response to Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2012, they took down hundreds of Israeli websites and threatened to wipe Israel off the map of the internet. They have carried out humanitarian operations too, like OpOk, which was a mutual aid effort responding to 2013 flash floods in Oklahoma. Operation Safe winter was an effort to create awareness about life on the streets. In 2015, in response to Charlie Hebdo shootings, Anonymous released a video stating, “Anonymous around the world, have decided to declare war on you, the terrorists” and promises to avenge the killings by “shut[ting] down your accounts on all social networks.”. They removed 1000 Islamic state websites in a matter of just three days and warned ISIS that they will hunt them down.
Anonymous has now become a movement, a movement to expose the wrong doers and fight for the rights of the citizens. Its attacks are not aimed to do any serious damage, they are simply a group of Hacktivists who publicise the target’s wrong doings. In case of PayPal, they could have disrupted companies’ payment networks or steal money (which could have affected citizens), but they merely brought down its website. Anonymous isn’t organised, it is lose, its members have different opinions on every matter, it has become a brand too, thus small time hackers commit crime or initiate their own personal operations in the name of Anonymous. It is an anarchist organisation and, till how far the powerful vigilantes remain a force of good is a serious question? After all, there will come a time when they will be the judge, the jury and the executioner. Don’t you think the same?
Picture Credits- Google images
By Bhanu Sharma