This week, the Internet hacktivist group Anonymous made its name known after claiming to be responsible for closing down the United States CIA website. The site was shut down Friday, Feb. 10 in the afternoon, and as of Saturday continues to be closed. With the CIA holding some of the nation’s most guarded secrets, the act has garnered national media attention.
So who is Anonymous? Many know them as the Guy Fawkes (“V for Vendetta”) mask-wearing kids seen at Occupy protests. Others are familiar with the videos and memes with their familiar mantra: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.” Anonymous represents an online community of anarchists working together to end injustice. As anonymity is key to the organization, they are considered to be decentralized, meaning there are no leaders.
One aspect of Anonymous that makes them unique is their approach to ending social, political and religious injustices. Many activist groups use direct or physically violent tactics. Anonymous employs “Internet hacktivism,” attacking individuals and groups through their knowledge of the Internet. Many of these attacks involve shutting down or rerouting websites as well as releasing personal information about individuals to the public.
Anonymous recently closed down the website of major mixed martial arts promotion UFC. The attack was in response to CEO Dana White’s support of the SOPA and PIPA bills that were aimed at ending Internet piracy. After the site was restored, White challenged the hackers to try messing with him again. The group responded by listing White’s Social Security number, phone number, and addresses.
The message seems all too scary for many that have fallen victim to these cyber attacks. No matter how strong, wealthy or powerful you are, you can’t escape the wrath of Anonymous. So with such power on the Web, should we really be afraid of the growing abilities of such an organization?
Most of the Anonymous campaigns have been aimed at ending injustices within our communities. Such an idea would usually lead to people being branded as heroes. However, many are still uncomfortable with the idea that anyone can use the Internet to cause chaos, just because they disagree with an issue. Whether you agree with it or not, the actions of Anonymous do serve to make us aware that we are more vulnerable than we think when it comes to the Internet. Such a fact is certainly worth considering next time you think about putting more of your personal information online.