Who exactly is 'Anonymous' and what are their intentions?
In retaliation for the terrorist attacks in Paris, the hacker group Anonymous has declared war on ISIS/ISIL. What does this actually mean, though? Who or what exactly is Anonymous? I’ll bring you up to speed on the hacktivist group Anonymous and their actions to take down ISIS.
What Is Anonymous?
Anonymous is a group of hackers that are spread across the globe. The group started around 2003, with the idea that they were decentralized with no leader. Their logos are a man dressed in a suit with a question mark in place of a head, as well as the Guy Fawkes mask. The mask was popularized by the movie V for Vendetta, and has been used as a symbol for the group since 2008. The symbol was used heavily when the group protested the church of Scientology and has since remained a symbol for the group.
There isn’t much known about the actual group’s structure due to the fact that it is split between many smaller sub groups. They are also very loosely tied together, and there have been a number of disagreements within the group as to what a particular target should be, or specific actions taken against a particular target. There have even been instances where one portion of Anonymous denounced the actions of another part of Anonymous. An example of this is when a faction denounced an attack carried out on the Westboro Baptist Church.
In general, the group sees themselves as Internet vigilantes, modern day Robin Hoods, and typically will take up causes against governments, large corporations, and even some organized religions. Although they may see themselves as hackers for good, many would definitely argue otherwise, and may even go so far as to classify them as terrorists. But as you’ll learn shortly, not everyone thinks Anonymous’s actions are purely beneficial, with many of their actions deemed illegal and described as cyber-terrorism.
Due to the fact that Anonymous is decentralized, identifying real members is extremely difficult. To make matters more complex, since there is no formal order to the group, anyone can claim they are a part of anonymous.
What Is Hacktivism?
The group refers to themselves as hacktivists. A hacktivist is someone who uses computers, the Internet, and hacking in general for a political motive. Anonymous uses their computer expertise to perform large-scale international attacks on companies or governments. Depending on who you talk to, hacktivism is nothing more than terrorism from a technological perspective.
Typically, the most common sort of attack used is called a DoS or DDoS, which stands for distributed denial of service. Basically what happens in these attacks is Anonymous will create millions, if not billions, of connections to a website that they are targeting. The website will crash under the shear volume. This is done through all of the individual computers and networks Anonymous group members control all trying to visit the same web page at once.
A DDoS is extremely hard to stop because the connections are coming from everywhere all over the world. This makes it impossible to differentiate one connection from another. For example, you may be visiting PayPal.com, which would be a valid connection, while there are simultaneously a thousand fake connections created by Anonymous. This would make the website slower, or stop responding altogether.