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Early on Monday morning the anarchist movement Anonymous released a torrent containing over 44 000 leaked private emails belonging to security firm HBGary‘s Aaron Barr, including a report which the firm was intending to sell to the FBI.
The firm had appointed Aaron Barr to conduct an investigation to find individuals involved in the DDoS attack on Mastercard, Visa and Paypal which took place in December 2010. The attack was a response to the respective financial institutions refusing to deal with Wikileaks’ donations and/or other transactions. Naturally, Anonymous was not pleased with an investigation into their group and a dangerous tit-for-tat situation has emerged as HBGary founder Greg Hoglund has stated, “they couldn’t have chosen a worse company to pick on”.
The investigation by HBGary did yield some results but, according to Anonymous, the individuals marked as “high ranking” members of the group were nothing more than innocent bystanders.
They would likely have been random individuals floating around image boards, jumping at the opportunity to contribute to the Wikileaks cause.
Simple DDoS applications spread like wildfire on image boards and all an aspiring activist need do is leave the app running in the background. This method effectively distributes accountability to such a degree that attempting to attack Anonymous is quite literally like swinging a sword at a swarm of bees.
The compiled report along with the identities of the so called “high ranking” members were openly distributed by Anonymous, nullifying the price-tag the FBI was meant to pay but also severely damaging the credibility of the report. Since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001, privacy laws in the US have gradually eroded. Critical aspects of the investigation conducted by HBGary would simply be illegal in most countries.
Control of information is critical in corrupt governance as was demonstrated in Egypt when the Mubarak dictatorship used the very controversial “Internet kill switch“.
Anonymous is a leaderless, hierarchy-less group where good ideas and bad ideas are naturally permeated or ignored respectively. Any form of directorship is quickly quelled as pride is one of the few taboos in the Anonymous community.
Anonymous released a scathing letter to accompany its attack which began:
Greetings HBGary (a computer “security” company),
Your recent claims of “infiltrating” Anonymous amuse us, and so do your attempts at using Anonymous as a means to garner press attention for yourself. How’s this for attention?
You brought this upon yourself. You’ve tried to bite at the Anonymous hand, and now the Anonymous hand is bitch-slapping you in the face. You expected a counter-attack in the form of a verbal braul (as you so eloquently put it in one of your private emails), but now you’ve received the full fury of Anonymous. We award you no points….
Membership of Anonymous is fleeting and the persona that emerges has a very general concept of ethics with freedom of information ironically held in the highest regard.