It’s easy to dismiss Anonymous as a group of trouble makers. The group of hackers or as some call them – “hacktivists”, came together from an anarchic message sub-board on 4Chan and have quickly garnered mainstream media attention, becoming popular and/or notorious the world over.
The simple Guy Fawkes Vendetta mask, inspired by a comic book character is now iconic and synonymous with the hacktivist group. The hacker group usually has leftist leanings in agreeing and aligning itself with liberal causes. Targeting radical conservatives and big corporations, Anonymous has bought the spotlight of the world’s eye on ‘hacktivism’.
While seen as morally ambiguous and even deemed as ethical hacking, hacktivism has established itself as a modern form of protest in which the hacking prowess of programmers is used to take a stand against what Anonymous sees as social injustice. A vast majority of Anonymous acts are non-violent and mostly illegal, which makes the members of the group work from behind the curtain of privacy to stay anonymous.
Here’s a list of the top 6 hacks by Anonymous with targets ranging from huge corporations such as Visa and PayPal to infamous hate groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.
The top 6 hacks by Anonymous
1- Operation Tunisia
Government corruption, deplorable living conditions, unemployment and the freedom of speech were all major talking points and causes for the Tunisian revolution. The trigger? A WikiLeaks wire which exposed the level of corruption in the Tunisian Government in great detail. Hiring a number of Tunisian hackers, Anonymous employed DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks to aid the revolution and take down eight government websites. The Tunisian revolution led to the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the then long-time President of Tunisia.
2- Operation Didgeridie
Stephen Conroy, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy sparked a drive to censor the internet in blocking malicious content which ended up affecting all websites that displayed violence, drugs and sex. Taking up a stance in protest, Anonymous took the Prime Minister’s website offline for a whole hour in the way of a DDoS attack.
3- Operation Payback
Companies and individuals taking pot shots and opposing WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange made for targets. MasterCard, Visa and PayPal followed, inundated and crippled by DDoS attacks against the payment companies when they refused processing transactions related to WikiLeaks.
4- A cybersecurity firm and its executive
In a huge coup, the resignation of the CEO of a U.S. security firm was directly related to Anonymous. Aaron Baar, the then Chief Executive of HBGary Federal, boasted in an interview to the Financial times that he would reveal the real identities and names of the leaders of Anonymous.
In retaliation, Anonymous hacked HBGarry’s computer network through the company’s website and indexed 71,000 private emails which were made public. Anonymous started all of this by putting up a banner on the security firm’s home-page which read: “You brought this upon yourself. You’ve tried to bite at the Anonymous hand, and now the Anonymous hand is bitch-slapping you in the face.”
5- Operation Sony
In 2011, Sony took George Hotz, a programmer who created a software and a workaround for PlayStation owners to run home-made software on their consoles. For their part, Anonymous launched Operation Sony and bought down the PlayStation Network. Sony’s PlayStation Network has struggled to achieve a strong foothold ever since, with plenty of breaches, hacks and more being suffered by the network ever since.
6- Westboro Baptist Church hack
In trying to gather some attention by way of a PR stunt, the Westboro Baptist Church invited Anonymous to “bring it,” following a threatening letter sent to the church as claimed by them. This was revealed to be a hoax, later. Anonymous promptly hacked the hate-preaching church’s website, putting up a message saying Take this defacement as a simple warning: go away,” they wrote. “The world (including Anonymous) disagrees with your hateful messages.”
With incidents and hacks worthy of even topping some of the antics of the top 10 hackers of all time, Anonymous has ensured that it is a force to be reckoned with.