Anonymous has gained a place in the public consciousness as a group of internet hackers who attack the websites of government agencies, major corporations and religious groups. Such action has been labelled in the media as “hacktivism”. However, the aims and objectives of Anonymous can be hard to define as it is not an organisation with offices and leaders but rather a disparate collection of like-minded, anonymous individuals. Indeed, if activists appear in public they cover their faces using Guy Fawkes masks made famous by the graphic novel and film "V for Vendetta." This slideshow will attempt to reveal more about Anonymous by taking a closer look at its origins and some of its attacks and protests.
The origins of Anonymous can be traced to the online imageboard 4chan in 2003. Some users began acting in a collective manner to coordinate actions such as prank calls, hacks and distributed denial of service attacks. The first instance of “hacktivism” occurred when Anonymous attacked the website of the Church of Scientology in 2008. However, it was not until Anonymous came to the defence of the Wikileaks website in 2010 and then played an active part in supporting the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 that it began to gain widespread media attention. The group has no rules or guidelines and operations are launched solely on the basis of the level of support and interest they receive from members. Protecting freedom of expression and the independence of the Internet can be seen as one of its main objectives. Various websites, twitter accounts and Facebook profiles have been hit with the group’s motto: "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Tens of thousands of people in about 40 countries across the world took part in Operation Paperstorm in 2010. The aim was to fill towns and cities with flyers bearing logos and slogans against censorship and global corporations. Activists were also encouraged to spread messages in support of democratic movements. Anonymous called on people to “race through the streets” distributing the flyers in an attempt to “hit them in their own world.”
Protest against Chilean energy project
Anonymous undertook attacks on several websites in Chile to protest against plans to build two hydroelectric plants in a nature reserve about 50 kilometres from Santiago. The protest against the Alto Maipo project was designed to coincide with Earth Day. The magazine “Mensaje” and the ATM machine provider Servibanca were two of the group’s victims. Anonymous left the following message on hacked sites: “We are very tired of you. Whether you are on the left or the right, you all succumb to the power of money. You are robbing the people. You are prisoners of the dollar. This is our world and you will not be well received here.” The group also called for the resignation of Chile’s energy minister Sergio del Campo.
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Spain’s anti-piracy law
Hackers targeted the websites of the People’s Party, the senate and the United States Embassy in Spain to protest against the passing of the so-called Sinde Law in 2011. The legislation was introduced to tackle issues regarding intellectual property rights. The law gives a commission the power to close websites considered to be violating copyright laws. Anonymous used Twitter to call on supporters from around the world to protest against the law.
Israel was the target of an attack by Anonymous when the websites of several ministries and the parliament were left unusable in April, 2013. The action was named “OpIsrael” and activists declared that its aim was to “erase Israel from cyberspace.” Before the action, Anonymous warned Israel that: “You have not stopped your endless human right violations. You have not stopped illegal settlements. You have not respected the ceasefire. You have shown that you do not respect international law.” The Israeli government, while admitting its websites had suffered failures, played down the significance of the attacks.
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A message for North Korea
Anonymous unleashed its fury against North Korea with a series of cyber-attacks in April, 2013. Activists targeted the country’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as attacking various government controlled news sites. A number of creative hackers posted images criticising the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un. One image showed the dictator as a pig-faced creature next to a caption which said "wanted". He was also show with an image of Mickey Mouse on his belly and accused of wasting money while his people starved. North Korea is criticised daily for its censorship of Internet content.
Avenging the death of an activist
Internet activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide in January, 2013. Swartz, co-owner of the site Reddit, was facing charges of computer fraud in the United States which could have led to him being sentenced to 35 years in prison. Following his death, Anonymous attacked the website of the Sentencing Commission of the United States Justice Department. Hackers left the following message: “Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win — a twisted and distorted perversion of justice — a game where the only winning move was not to play.” Anonymous then claimed to have copied secret information and threatened to make it public.
Action in Argentina
The website of the Argentine Supreme Court was attacked by Anonymous in 2012 in support of file-sharing site Taringa. With the site’s owners Alberto Nakayama and brothers Matias and Eran Botbol facing copyright infringement charges, Anonymous rallied to their cause by using the Twitter hashtags “#OpTaringa” and “#OpFuerza” to urge the public to protest against the legal action.
Anti-corruption protest in Brazil
The website of the Central Bank of Brazil was taken offline in March, 2012, when Anonymous launched an attack denouncing corruption and inequality in the South American country. Although the bank stated that no transactions or other systems had been affected by the cyber-attack, members of the public were unable to access the site for a number of hours. During the period of a week, activists attacked the sites of several different banks and organisations in Brazil, including the Brazilian Federation of Banks, the credit card operator Cielo, Citibank Brazil and the Pan-American Bank.