A mysterious group called Anonymous is staging protests and publicity stunts. Who are they and what do they want?
To understand Anonymous you only need three words:
It’s a good thing Scenes of Reason has handy guides on all three. You’re totally welcome. 😉
Anonymous is a global network of activists and hackers. It has members in countries all around the world.
Members are known as “Anons” and hide their identity by wearing Guy Fawkes masks, similar to those worn in the film “V for Vendetta”.
We’ll let them explain further in their own words:
Anonymous first started out on the image website 4chan. Visitors to the site show up as “Anonymous” hence the name.
4chan users raided and hacked websites including several attacks on social networking site Habbo Hotel. These led to the first media reports on the group.
A common Anonymous tactic is a “denial of service” attack. This crashes a website by sending LOTS of internet traffic its way. Death by spam, basically.
Soon the group started pranks and “operations” in the real world. Anonymous first wore Guy Fawkes masks to protect their identity whilst protesting against the Church of Scientology.
The church had tried to remove a video about Scientology by serving a legal copyright notice. Anonymous saw this as trying to censor the internet.
The motto commonly associated with Anonymous is: “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
Anonymous isn’t your regular activist group, compared to a flock of birds;
“How do you know they’re a group? Because they’re travelling in the same direction. At any given moment, more birds could join, leave, peel off in another direction entirely.”
“Its wild string of brilliant hacks and protests seemed impossible in the absence of some kind of defined organization.”
It’s even harder to work out what their motives are, or what they want.
Anonymous has been associated with liberal or anti-establishment causes. For anti-establishment think: against the established authority and opposing conventional society.
However for many, taking part in raids would seem to be purely for Lulz. Lulz – plural of Lol (laugh out loud), now used to describe funny internet content.
Quinn Norton notes that you’re never sure if they are the hero or anti-hero. Parmy Olson wrote a book on Anonymous and mentions that they have done a lot of bad things.
“Unnecessarily harassing people — I would class that as a bad thing. DDOSing [attacking] the CIA website, stealing customer data and posting it online just for shits and giggles is not a good thing.”
If Anonymous wants power for the people how does exposing their private details help? Seems like someone went off message.
Having no clear ideology makes it difficult for Anons to decide what they stand for, and what activity is off-limits.
Disagreements within the group are regular. Like when a small group threatened to take down Facebook, only to be disavowed by the majority of Anonymous. Bit embarrassing.
Though they may hack websites for the banter, when you take down the US Department of Justice’s page you risk the wrath of the security services.
So far dozens from many countries (including the UK and US) have been arrested for taking part in Anonymous hacks. A 19-year-old called Dmitriy Guzner was sent to jail for a year for hacking.
Hector Monsegur, one of the main leaders of the group was identified by the FBI in 2011. Monsegur then spied on Anonymous for the FBI, leading to more arrests.
Anonymous’s attacks on child pornography websites on the Dark Web have been praised by some. However others say that taking vigilante action may compromise existing police investigations.
Don’t think this is just about crashing websites though. Anonymous actually caused the resignation of Aaron Barr, CEO of company HBGary. Emails they had hacked into revealed some dodgy corporate behaviour.
Anonymous also organises the Million Mask March, an annual event where Anons descend on London. In recent years this has also expanded to other cities. Violence has previously broken out at these marches with protesters fighting against police officers.
It could be argued that being a freedom fighter requires breaking the law in order to overcome the current system. But is violence ever justified?
Anonymous has just as many enemies as supporters. However Anonymous is here to stay, at least for now. After all, how do you shut down a global operation which has no known base?
Is this new activist group what’s needed to take on corruption and bring power back to the people? Or is just a network of bored troublemakers? What’s your take on Anonymous?
Do say: “Anonymous is an interesting example of how lack of structure in an organisation makes it hard to shut down”
Don’t say: “I bet they couldn’t hack me”
We can only see 10% of the internet, the rest is invisible “Deep Web”. Is this really full of drug dealers, pornography and hitmen?
Let’s face it; the internet is vast. Type a phrase into Google (other search engines are available) – it tells you how many results link to that phrase. Even searching your own name can find tens of thousands of results (try it!)
However, what many people don’t know is that what we see is only the tip of the iceberg.
Only around 10% of the internet is “indexed”, which means search engines like Google and Bing can find it.
The other 90% of “hidden” content is the Deep Web.
The deep web has received a lot of negative press recently. Various articles focus on how it is full of dodgy illegal sites selling drugs, passports and weapons. As we’ll see, this isn’t providing the full story.
When we google something we’re actually searching an index. Think: a massive library of different web pages.
Stuff like your email inbox, online banking and website databases can’t be indexed. Anything which you go through a login page to access.
Deep web is more difficult to index as information is stored on databases, not specific web pages. Put simply: it’s hidden. With us so far?
So if most of the deep web is just harmless private material, why all the bad press? It’s all to do with people using it to become anonymous. It’s time to go underground;
When you visit a website using a regular browser you access the website data direct from that webpage.
This is quick, but your location and information you download is logged.
Meaning people (the government) can track where you are and what you look at. Creepy or what?
In the 1990s the US government developed a programme for anonymous file sharing.
They called it “Tor”, short for “The Onion Router” (we’ll explain the name, we promise).
First you make a request to find a web page. The request to find the intended destination is wrapped in layers of encryption or code – like the skin of an onion. Onion layers, onion router – those computer guys sure had some wordplay skills.
Instead of going direct to the web page your request is bounced randomly across a network relay of computers all across the globe.
As your request arrives at a new location a level of encryption is unlocked. All the relay computer sees are instructions to send the request on to the next location.
In real world language; bouncing across different locations makes it near impossible to trace the user. Meaning you become anonymous. There’s even a version for smartphones. Ooooh, exciting.
Yes, using deep web to surf the web anonymously is legal. However, if you use it for illegal activity… well, go figure.
Yes, and no. There’s a lot of confusion as “deep” and “dark” sound pretty similar, and lots of people use the terms interchangeably.
The dark web is actually a section of the deep web. Dark web is used to describe a specific group of websites which use Tor encryption to hide their location.
Whilst dark web is part of the deep web, it is very different. Simples.
The most famous dark web site was Silk Road, described by the press as “Amazon for criminals”.
It was an anonymous online marketplace selling anything from illegal drugs to plastic explosive.
There’s even been reports of hitmen offering their services on the deep web. Mostly drugs though… or so we hear.
Before it was closed by the authorities Silk Road users paid for their goods using an online currency called BitCoin. Rumoured to be the “next big thing” in the currency world, BitCoin also offers some anonymity if you’re clever with computers.
Is the majority of the web filled with pornography, hitmen and drugs? Not really. It’s been estimated that the dark web makes up only 0.01% of the internet.
So although 90% of the internet is deep web, only a tiny fraction of this is naughty sites like Silk Road.
With stories about spy agencies intercepting images from people’s webcams it’s no surprise that some of us want a little more privacy. Going anonymous can give us that.
Despite creating Tor the US government now wants it shut down to stop criminals trading anonymously on the deep web. Oh, the irony.
Yet the dark web isn’t just used by criminals.
Activists and journalists working in China and other countries with strict censorship laws use Tor and deep web to spread their message.
Even Facebook got in on the act. It created a dark web version of the site for those living in countries like Syria and China which ban Facebook.
The website Wikileaks was set up by activist Julian Assange to expose government and corporate misconduct. It used deep web encryption so that whistleblowers could anonymously supply evidence.
The problem: though some see whistleblowers and activists as freedom fighters, others see them as lawbreakers.
Seems like this argument will continue going round in circles.
Think we missed something? Let us know firstname.lastname@example.org.