The group admires Julian Assange, the anti-American founder of Wikileaks. It carried out reprisals against Paypal, Mastercard and Visa when they decided to refuse service to Wikileaks, causing the organization to now teeter on the edge of bankruptcy. In July, 16 alleged Anonymous members throughout the U.S., one in Britain and four in the Netherlands, were arrested for the attacks on Paypal. In retaliation, Anonymous announced that it hacked into about 70 law enforcement websites in the U.S. and stole 10 gigabytes of data. The information included credit card numbers, private emails and tips from citizens.
Once the Arab Spring began, it struck websites of the governments of Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Libya and published hundreds of emails and passwords of Arab officials. Anonymous attacked the website of the Syrian Defense Ministry and posted an image of the Syrian flag before the Baathist regime took over along with a message asking soldiers to protect the protesters. In October, Anonymous stole 10,000 internal emails from the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
Anonymous also takes aim at the news media. It hacked into the Twitter account of NBC News shortly before the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and posted a tweet reporting that there had been a terrorist attack at Ground Zero. It also threatened to attack the website of FOX News Channel for its criticism of the “Occupy Wall Street” protest on November 5, but nothing happened.
Consumers of child pornography are a special target for Anonymous members. In October, the group attacked hidden, anonymous websites used for sharing such material. It then released the IP addresses of 190 people. Anonymous says it target 40 hidden websites for exchanges of child pornography in “Operation Darknet,” taking down over 100 gigabytes of material.
Most recently, Anonymous very publicly clashed with the Zetas drug cartel of Mexico. It said that the traffickers had kidnapped one of its members in Veracruz. “You have made a great mistake by taking one of us. Free him,” Anonymous warned. It threatened to release the names of taxi drivers, police officers and journalists that were secretly working with the Zetas. The drug cartel freed the hacker and warned Anonymous that if the data was released, it’d make his family pay the consequences and 10 people would be murdered for every name published.
The world has entered an age where individuals around the world can collaborate to bring pain to their adversaries. These “hacktivists” are decentralized and operate out of private homes, often without even meeting each other or knowing what their partners look like. Tackling these “hacktivists” is an incredibly tough task, but it’s a task that cannot be ignored.
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