On Tuesday, July 19, 2011, U.S authorities announced that 14 arrests had been made in connection with the attacks made on PayPal earlier this year, that were claimed by the cyber-anarchist group ‘Anonymous’.
According to U.S officials, four Dutch nationals, two other Americans and one Briton were also arrested on suspicion of participating in other hacking attacks against online companies and organisations.
While these arrests may make ‘inroads’ against this global hacker movement, some experts have warned that the group that is initiating the online chaos whilst remaining anonymous, is far from being stopped or even slowed down.
Recent Anonymous Arrests
The recent arrests, in which the alleged hackers have been charged with conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer, could even, experts warn, enflame rebellious reactions within the global hacking movement and intensify its member’s aims.
Talking about how the arrests may affect the group’s high-profile cyber-attacks, Gabrielle Coleman, an assistant professor at New York University who studies Anonymous and other hacker groups, said:
“Some people surely will get scared off. Others will feel more emboldened to fight the fight. But I don’t think at the moment it’s going to slow things down.”
So is this group of cyber-anarchists truly unstoppable?
Righteous Protester or Criminal?
Unlike ‘conventional’ criminals, Anonymous likes to ‘tease’ its victims, rubbing in the fact that it has out-witted its targets, many of whom are supposed to be the most safeguarded and protected organisations in the world.
For example, Anonymous recently claimed to have breached NATO security and accessed hoards of restricted material. The hackers admitted that it would be “irresponsible” of them to publish the stolen data, but revelled in telling NATO, that they were just “sitting on” about a gigabyte of data titled “NATO Restricted”.
Writing on Twitter, the group teased, “Hi NATO, Yes we haz more of your delicious data.”
Since it started in 2003, Anonymous has essentially been a social movement initiating active civil disobedience through the Internet. The hacker group’s members are crusading for freedom of speech and are sympathetic to WikiLeaks in particular.
Whilst Anonymous members do not seem to follow any single shared agenda, one common theme runs through its attacks. The group, unlike ‘conventional’ criminals, almost always claim credit for its disruptions.
Whilst most criminal organisations do their best to cover up their crimes and deny responsibility of any wrongdoings, Anonymous relishes in informing its victims about its attacks.
Defenders of Wikileaks
Anonymous has claimed responsibility for attacks against corporate and government websites worldwide. In December of last year, in a defiant reaction to credit card companies stopping the processing of donations to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, Anonymous claimed credit for disrupting the websites of both Visa and Mastercard.
What authorities and enforcement agencies have to remember in this case, is that they are not dealing with conventional acts of crime here, and therefore traditional methods of enforcement may not work against this global hacker movement.
Arrests tied to Anonymous have taken place in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington D.C, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio, in association with the PayPal attack. Further arrests have been made in Britain and the Netherlands in association with the widening probe of cyber-attacks aimed at major corporations and government agencies.
This is proof that Anonymous is far from “above the law”. The hackers carrying out attacks from home computers make it relatively easy for authorities to chase down. However, it is likely to be the lower level and less dangerous hackers that get arrested. These hackers are simply following the guidelines and protocol that members of Anonymous generally agree to.
Similar to any criminal organisation, the “big boys” are the hardest to catch and of course are also the most wanted.
A “Legion” of Followers
Experts admit that those recently arrested in relation to the PayPal attack did not appear to be high-level members of Anonymous.
aChris Wysopal, the chief technology officer of the security company Veracode, admitted that those arrested are unlikely to be experienced hackers, and instead simply downloaded and used software that caused PayPal’s site to crash, due to traffic flooding – a relatively simple technique known as “distributed denial of service.”
“They’re just cannon fodder,” said Wysopal. “There are probably hundreds more just like them who aren’t very sophisticated but want to be associated with the core group.”
Wysopal admitted that these arrests would have little effect on the overall operations of Anonymous, other than perhaps resulting in the group savouring the media attention and being in the limelight.
When a group of people, so strong in their opinions on social, political and economic issues, hack into The Sun and challenge Murdoch on Twitter by stating, “Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation,” a lesson must be learnt – traditional methods of enforcement will not work against this global hacker movement.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com