The Rise and Fall of Anonymous

Following my previous blog on Francopol 2011, here are some data and slides from my own talk on the Anonymous Group.

Anonymous circles are not the only component of hacktivism, merely a loose collection with the highest media profile. Other representatives of this informal protest movement include the “Indignants,” who use social networks around the world to promote their demonstrations; the “Telecomix,” who act to restore free Internet access in some Middle East countries whenever the local authorities attempt to silence its opponents; and the diverse cyberarmies that boast of working hand in hand with their governments.

I got to the heart of the matter by showing that since the beginning of the Anonymous/WikiLeaks saga, many have preferred denouncing others over working for solidarity:

  • In June 2010, Adrian Lamo spoke to Wired magazine about Bradley Manning
  • On December 30, 2010, Jester (calling himself a hacktivist for good) revealed on a (slightly blurred) document some personal data about people who took part in the December 9 Operation Payback
  • On February 6, 2011, a document regarding Aaron Barr (at that time CEO of HBGary Federal) was made public (along with 130 names or pseudonyms)
  • On March 21, 2011, Backtrace Security distributed its own list (with 80 names or pseudonyms)
  • On May 9, 2011, “Ryan” published a list of 650 pseudonyms/IP+ISP pairs

And let’s not forget all the exposed private data (addresses, phones, pictures, legal or illegal hobbies, family life information) exposed by people from the various tiny groups searching for LulzSec members.

Roughly 230 people have had a part of their lives revealed since January 1. Most are from the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Even if the following figures have to be considered just as “trends,” we can see that there is nobody from Eastern Europe. During this time, we note that some doors opened by Anonymous have offered opportunities to Eastern cybercriminals to improve their businesses.

In the second part of my talk I discussed police interventions as they were reported in the news during the same period. The next slide confirms the young age of many actors in this field. It also shows us which countries are the most active.

I don’t have enough space in this blog to go into detail on the relationship between public denunciation and police success. But, as I explained to my audience in Quebec, I am not convinced that these accusations helped the authorities. Quite the reverse, I imagine they were more confusing than useful. And to cap it all, I remember the media questioning after some of these arrests and the need by the police to demonstrate they were not wrong.

To conclude, let’s say that this hubbub and these arrests demonstrate that those who started the WikiLeaks battle (the former Anonymous), seem to have been corrupted by various young hacker apprentices whose motivation is often vague. This trend was predicted, in May, by Barrett Brown, a former media-friendly Anonymous spokesperson.

And the recent operations Invade Wall Street (on October 10, separate from Occupy Wall Street) and Destroy Facebook (on November 5) are not helping to clarify the situation.