The hacktivist group calling itself Anonymous isn’t quite as it’s been represented. since it came out of the shadows in support of WikiLeaks.
Like all fairytales, there’s a dark secret lurking behind the ‘anarchic and leaderless’ initial impression given about Anonymous, the hacker group which laid waste to mega-sites such as PayPal, Amazon, Visa, MasterCard and others who dumped their services to WikiLeaks when the US turned the heat up on Julian Assange.
Members of the group have contacted a well-known UK newspaper which now describes the groups as far less amorphous and far more hierarchical than was first assumed. At the top of the still anonymous tree are a dozen hidden and highly skilled hackers, with the lower branches composed of thousands of computers and their owners scattered worldwide used in DDoS attacks.
Attacks are closely coordinated and timed, and are not just aimed at Wikileaks detractors, although that seems to be the focus at present and likely to continue.
The US website Gawker was attacked last weekend, with its 1.3 million user’s email addresses and passwords made public, which spawned a Twitter spam attack now under FBI investigation.
Operation Payback, coordinated during the last 10 days, hit all the sites which had cut off services to WikiLeaks, leaving it with no way to receive donations, on which it survives. Insiders are looking for the attacks to accelerate over the Christmas holidays, given the younger profile of Anonymous’s members. It seems it’s not just Santa who has ‘little helpers’ at this time of year.
According to an Anonymous member who, of course, wishes to remain anonymous, the groups ‘control and command centres’ are invite only. He adds, ‘if you prove yourself trustworthy, you’re in, if not, you’re out’, continuing the group is not elitist but has to ensure the press and law-enforcement agencies don’t see who gives the orders.
Looking at developments so far and ignoring the conspiracy theories, if this is cyber-war it’s to be hoped free speech isn’t the first casualty.