Anonymous. Are they our ethically behaving knights in shining armour here to restore the balance of power to the people? Or are they a group of vigilante ‘hacktivists’ hiding behind the subterfuge of a Guy Fawkes mask? Supporters of the group have labelled them ‘freedom fighters’, while many believe that the group is simply an anti-authority ethic hacking for its own sake.
The group was originated in 2003, and its members, known as Anons, quickly became known for their distributed denial-of-service attacks on government, religious and corporate websites. The group first became known for hacktivism in 2008 following a series of actions against the Church of Scientology. Generally speaking, the group objects to Internet censorship and control, and they target corporations because of this.
This article from The Independent explains the prosecution three English men faced for their activities in ‘Operation Payback’ where members of the group hacked the websites of Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal. These websites were chosen because the companies would not process donations for Wiki-Leaks, a favoured company of Anonymous that promotes anarchism. They cost these companies millions by flooding their systems with requests, which subsequently caused them to crash. Anons have said the purpose of Operation Payback was not to cause permanent damage to these sites, but to protest by means of activity and create awareness. These men were breaking the law, but their motives were for a greater good; their methods however deemed intolerable.
So when does it become acceptable to turn a blind eye to the activity of Anonymous? In recent months the group have vowed to take down the Islamic State militant group. Following the Paris attacks, they hacked thousands of known ISIS Twitter accounts and published personal information from these people online. Their methods used were much the same as those used to hack the corporate sites, yet no official arrests have been made. Are we rewriting the definition of ethical behaviour? Is society now turning to the very people we condemn for their illegal unethical behaviour to save us?
A former member of Anonymous, who remained nameless in their speech, said that the nature of the group makes it impossible to predict what they will support. “One day they could hate the United States government, the next day they could defend it,” the former member said. Can the same not be said for societies views towards Anonymous themselves? One day we condemn and punish the behaviour of the group, but the next we applaud their efforts because our safety is now an issue. It seems synonymous with hypocrisy to me.
One may not agree with the actions of Anonymous, but they appear to be consistent in their beliefs of anarchism. How fickle is our society today that we can sway from labelling the group cyber-criminals to backing them to fight the ISIS war for us? Surely the word ethics isn’t conditional. If the practices of Anonymous were regarded intolerable and criminal when they took down large corporations, should the same not be said for their approach to taking down the Islamic State militant group? Food for thought!
Until next time,
Paris Attacks can Anonymous disrupt Islamic State.Available at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/subscribe/news/1/index.html?(Accessed: 12 February 2016)
11, 00 -, Khandelwal, S. and Saturday (2015) Anonymous hacking group takes down 20, 000 ISIS Twitter accounts. Available at: http://thehackernews.com/2015/11/anonymous-hacker-isis_21.html (Accessed: 12 February 2016).
Turner, L. (2013) Anonymous hackers jailed for DDoS attacks on visa, Mastercard and Paypal. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/anonymous-hackers-jailed-for-ddos-attacks-on-visa-mastercard-and-paypal-8465791.html (Accessed: 12 February 2016).
Yadron, D. and Biography (2015) Anonymous’s hackers targeting Islamic state online. Available at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/anonymouss-hackers-targeting-islamic-state-online-1447881328