We are Anonymous

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Inside the hacker world of LulzSec, Anonymous and the global cyber insurgency

Parmy Olson

Review by John ‘Bit Bucket’ Kerrens

‘We Are Anonymous’ is the often outrageous account of a loose confederation of hackers and trolls, based in various corners of the world and coming together in a digital insurgency to upset the likes of Fox News, PayPal, the Scientologists and, of course, the FBI.

Parmy Olsen, a staff writer at Forbes magazine penetrated the controversial movement, known variously as ‘4chan’, ‘Anonymous’ and ‘LulzSec.’ This is the story of Sabu, Topiary, Kayla, Tflow and others: talented geeks whose real lives may have been less than satisfactory and who also perhaps had some issues with society.

The group had no real structure or leadership and claimed to be “everything and nothing,” with a “Hivemind.” The collective (for lack of a better term) at times seemed to be an abstract version of Fight Club. No doubt, a desire for outrage and notoriety was a major driving force in the Anons activities.

“We are Anonymous.

We are legion.

We do not forgive.

We do not forget.

Expect us.”

Thus spoke the Hivemind – ominous and controversial, and somewhat childish. In fact, most of the group’s activities were ultimately carried out for “Lulz.” Not that all their actions were frivolous by any means.

In 2011, they decided to give the autocratic Tunisian government a slap, for its repressive treatment of its own citizens. After weeks of Anon activity – for example taking the whole Tunisian government offline – the President fled the country. Similar actions were carried out against the Puerto Rican government.

There was nothing particularly sophisticated about the techniques used by Anon to trash their enemies. A common method was to DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) a server. The hackers would use a server stress-testing tool such as ‘Gigaloader’ to fire countless data packets at a target server until it crashed or was brought offline.

There were also hundreds (and thousands) of so-called “Zombies” which translate to computers that have been infected and co-opted. Such computers could then be used in massed DDoS attacks, as part of a so-called “Botnet.”

One hacker claimed to have 10,000 Zombies in his Botnet. That’s a lot of potential bad news for someone.

Many youthful Anons gained a feeling of power and purpose, being able to invade and violate the information repositories of the rich and powerful. Most of the hackers were unaware that LOICing was illegal.

To make matters worse, the LOIC bombs did nothing to hide the IP address of the sender, making it easier for the FBI to later on connect an online persona with a real world individual. Which, in fact, is what happened.

One of the Anon/LulzSec leaders, Hector ‘Sabu’ Monsegur, co-operated with the FBI and subsequently helped the investigators bring cases against Kayla, Topiary, Tflow and others.

Parmy Olson has done a remarkable job of hacking the Anonymous culture and translating it to a broad audience. This cannot have always been easy. An admirable and inspiring piece.

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