GoDaddy Becomes Just Another Anonymous Victim

Today, became the latest victim of the hacking group Anoymous.

The damage to the popular webhost is not necessarily long term, but it did force millions of websites that the site supports to go down as a result. The attacks themselves seem to be the works of the hacking group, of whom a sole member has claimed responsibility for the attacks via their Twitter handle AnonymousOwn3r, and said it was done in an effort to expose the security weaknesses of the site. Currently, GoDaddy has announced they are aware of the problem, and are working to resolve it as quickly as possible.

While the scope of this attack (again, millions of websites went down as a result) makes this event certainly newsworthy, it’s inevitably but another notch in the post in a long run of Anonymous attacks. The workings and power structure of the group (if one does in fact exist in the classic sense) are certainly ambiguous, and it often becomes difficult to properly tell exactly what events can be truly attributed to the group, and which ones are done in their name.

Also of ambiguous nature is the exact motivation and intentions of the organization.  In one moment they appear as anarchists, yet a swift glance away yields their image to that of political heroes. Even still, turn your back on them, and the next you hear, you in fact  found yourself face to face with one of their more popular monikers, that of cyber terrorists.

The reason for these profile inconsistencies has to do with the variety of actions performed, or supposedly performed, by the group. While the volume, and nature, of these actions are alarmingly astounding, there are a few that stand out above the rest for one reason or the other. The following are among them:

The Chris Forcand Bust

In one of the most early and public instances of “Anonymous justice”, Chris Forcand was arrested for attempted molestation of a minor, exposure, and weapons charges after members of Anonymous set up an online sting by posing as underage children, and providing the evidence (which included photos of Forcand exposing himself) to the police. When Anonymous would later claim responsibility for the actions, the event would eventually become cited as one of the first known cases of internet vigilantism.

The No Cussing Club

In one of the more petty acts of supposed Anonymous action, California teenager McKay Hatch thought it might be a good idea to start the No Cussing Club with the goal of making people aware of the overuse of profanity. Hackers shut the site down, and got a hold of McKay’s information and leaked his phone number and address to the public resulting in a barrage of hate mail, prank calls, and porn and pizza deliveries made to his residence.

It’s an incident that would prove that no target was too big or small for the considerable capabilities of the group.

Operation Payback

A multi-tiered and ambitious campaign, Operation Payback started a retaliation against the companies supporting anti-piracy campaigns.

The attacks done in the name of this campaign are almost too numerous to list here. They’ve included shutting down the Playstation Network in retaliation against Sony, shutting down a law firm website and releasing private documents they found within, shutting down the website for the Associação do Comércio Audiovisual de Portugal (ACAPOR) which pledged to keep the people of Potruguese from accessing The Pirate Bay (and then redirecting the site directly to Pirate Bay), and attacks against numerous government institutions and politicians.

Operation Payback would later result in Operation Avenge Assange, which was in response to the infamous WikiLeaks shutdown, that also resulted in numerous attacks against a variety of big names including PayPal, Amazon, and large Credit Card companies. Under any name, these operations represent some of the largest and most focused online attacks ever seen against high profile organizations.

2009 Iranian Election Protests

Many of the actions of anonymous are done in support of those they considered to be the “disenfranchised.” In 2009 the people of Iran joined these ranks when the controversial results of the presidential election were announced leading to national protests. In a coalition with the Pirate Bay, Anonymous launched the website Anonymous Iran. The purposes of the site was to get around the restrictions set up by the Iranian government that outlawed news updates about the protests, and provide free information to the citizens.

It was one of the more official acts of the group and emphasized their particular balance of political contributions, and wide scale personal attacks.

Barr, Aaron Barr

One of the more infamous cases of Anonymous attacks, Aaron Barr was CEO of the internet security firm HBGary Federal.  Barr launched a one man campaign of sorts where he infiltrated online hotspots for Anonymous member gatherings, and started collecting data. At one point, he felt he had supposedly acquired knowledge of the majority of the Anonymous leadership and planned on exposing them to the FBI.

Unfortunately in what the kids call a “bad move bro” he also decided to publish his investigation in the Financial Times. When members of Anonymous found out, their vengeance was thorough as they shut down Barr’s company website (an internet security company mind you), altered all of the passwords used internally on the site, wiped out significant amounts of the company’s database information, and published over 50,000 of the companies e-mails for public viewing. As a finale, and in the ultimate show of one-upsmanship, they also erased Barr’s personal iPad.

In order to get them to stop, Barr had to issue a public apology for his actions and also resign as CEO. HBGary would also never recover completely from the incident, as their name is still associate with the incident to this day.

Anonymous vs Scientology

Batman has the Joker, the Hatfields had the McCoys, Maggie Simpson had that baby with the one eye-brow, and for a rival, Anonymous has the Church of Scientology.

It began when Anonymous released a video that showed Tom Cruise spouting a slew of somewhat maniacal “facts” about the church of scientology. As a result, the church put their full legal force into getting the video removed from public, and as a general protest to everything the church represents, the hacking group went into overdrive in the name of revenge.

One of the most significant actions of this campaign was the organizing of physical protests across the world outside of various scientology institutions, where many protestors could be seen wearing Guy Fawkes masks, made popular by the “V for Vendetta” story, in show of their support to Anonymous. The sheer number of worldwide protesters that showed up were astounding, and their methods of protest, while peaceful, were notable in their organization and enthusiasm. Of course, the usual Anonymous methods of protest, including hacking, prank calls, and rigging Google so that the search “dangerous cult” lead to the Scientology website as the top result, were also employed.

To this day the war against Scientology wages on for Anonymous, and has become their signature movement, known as Project Chanology. Along with providing some of their most notable manifestos and iconic images, it’s a movement against just about everything the group considers wrong. While many aspects of the group Anonymous are debatable, there is no denying the social impact of this movement regardless of any personal feelings towards it.