Another month has passed and Anonymous remains an ever-present voice in the online world. Despite several setbacks earlier in the year, notably the FBI's success in turning hacktivist leader Sabu into an informant and the growing sureness with which Interpol and government organizations crack down on active members in the ongoing 'Operation Unmask,' Anonymous has remained strong despite all obstacles. The leaderless, formless and nationless army of the internet has continued in its efforts to draw social and political issues across the world, most frequently by hacking and defacing the home-pages of prominent websites in an effort to draw attention to the misdeeds of their enemies.
A few years ago the Anonymous movement was unknown outside of the murkiest corners of the internet. Today their commitment to a number of worthy causes, notably censorship and human rights violations, and their brash refusal to stand down from these causes has brought the faceless organization into the public eye. Time Magazine ranked Anonymous the 36th most influential person in the world after the group came in first place in Time's 2012 online poll. A student at Baylore University wrote their honors thesis on Anonymous, and a documentary We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists premiered at SXSW.
Here are five high-profile hacks carried out and endorsed by Anonymous, which demonstrate the method and range of their operations in the past month:
On April 16 a single member of the hacktivist organization calling himself Havittaja took down the US DoJ website for over an hour with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attack. In a DDoS attack the target is overloaded with external messages that clog a website's servers and block regular users from gaining access. A website can become overloaded and forced offline naturally if there is the number of visits skyrockets (for instance, when highly sought after tickets go on sale online). On Twitter, Havittaja claimed he carried out the hack for the lulz (internet speak for laughs), but Anonymous had targeted the DoJ following the US ordered arrest of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.
At the start of April, Anonymous took on their most challenging target yet, China, home to some of the most tightly controlled internet servers in the world. The hacktivists struck with a fury, defacing not just one or two but hundreds of government websites in a massive online operation targeting China's national government in Beijing. A list of the hundreds of websites hacked was even posted on Pastebin in advance of the attack.
All defaced websites carried the same message to the Chinese People, inspiring them to fight back against censorship while The Who's Baba O'Riley played in the background.
All these years, the Chinese communist government has subjected its people to unfair laws and unhealthy processes, Anonymous wrote in the statement. Dear Chinese government, you are not infallible, today websites are hacked, tomorrow it will be your vile regime that will fall.
It also contained a message for the Chinese people: Each of you suffers from the tyranny of that regime which knows nothing about you, read the message. We are with you. [...]The silence of all other countries highlights the lack of democracy and justice in China. It's unbearable.
Anonymous also offered Chinese citizens with tips on how to bypass state censorship.
Hacktivists associated with Anonymous targeted the servers of Greece's Finance Ministry for the third time this year in April, in an effort to draw attention to the governments plans to fight against tax evasion.
The cyber-attack was triggered by the Greek government's decision to track household bank accounts, credit cards and telephone lines in order to catch tax evaders and force them to declare their tax statements.
To them, you are just economic indicators, deficits and balance sheets -- but there are no indicators for misery, a statement by Anonymous said on a finance ministry website.
Anonymous launched Operation Greece in January 2012 after the Greek government agreed to much-debated austerity measures in return for a bailout from Europe, and also signed the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
We watch every day your government abolishing the constitution and institutions of the country, said a statement announcing the cyber-attack. We watch them delivering the country to the IMF and the bankers, Anonymous wrote. The Republic in Greece has died.
Excitement was high in Bahrain as the date of the high-profile Formula 1 races approached, but Anonymous had been protesting human rights violantions in the country for months and were not about to let an opportunity to draw the public eye to their cause.
Anonymous took down the Formula One official website in order to express their support for local protesters fighting against the continued government crackdown on activists, professionals and opposition politicians.
TANGO DOWN formula1.com for #F1 support of #Bahrain's human rights abuse, torture, murder, censorship #OpBahrain #Anonymous, tweeted anon Pastor Quinn.
Anonymous also defaced the website F1 Racers with a message condemning the regime of Kimg Hamad bin al Khalifa.
For over one year the people of Bahrain have struggled against the oppressive regime of King Hamad bin Al Khalifa, the hacktivists wrote. They have been murdered in the streets, run over with vehicles, beaten, tortured, tear gassed, kidnapped by police, had their businesses vandalised by police, and have tear gas thrown in to their homes on a nightly basis.
Online, Anonymous warned of the attack in the days leading up to it, writing,
Beginning tomorrow, and lasting for the duration of this race - Anonymous will turn your web site (www.formula1.com) into a smoking crater in cyber space, in a document posted on AnonPaste.
Anonymous hackers targeted the International Police Organization on April 27, defacing the website's homepage with an angry message.
oHai [hello]... International Police Association (International Admin Center) you will see we haz [had] some #LULZ at your expense maybe you will fix your security issues and of course... we always recommend you NOT store admin passwords in PLAINTEXT For a site like International Police Association... w3 [we] really expected moar [more]... #LULZ the thin...
The hack was self-credited to Anonymous, and confirmed by several posts on Twitter, but the particular hacker(s) responsible declined to take responsibility, fearing that the feds might be watching. The message continues to boast that Anonymous cannot be stopped because There is no head to cut off motherfu--kers!!! Before concluding with the words, F--k the police!!!!
Anonymous targeted the IPA for this hack because they saw a glaring weakness in the website's security and not in order to expose the international organization for any illegal or immoral activity. However, the cyber-attack marked the return of a tradition that peaked in early 2012 and had mostly dropped off by April, #FFF (F--k FBI Friday). For months Anonymous targeted one organization after another every week like clockwork. The only characteristic tying the victims together was that they were all involved in one way or another with the military-industrial complex.
The weekly attacks served to draw public attention to usually discrete companies, but also kept Anonymous in the limelight themselves. The hack on the IPA may have signified that May might just bring with it a new barrage of hacktivist operations and campaigns. Expect them.