Experienced Points: Anonymous

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 3, 2011

Filed under: Column 115 comments


I see a lot of people misunderstanding anonymous, how they work, or why it’s so hard to catch them. So I wrote a column about it.


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115 thoughts on “Experienced Points: Anonymous

  1. theLameBrain says:

    Blah. I hate being first. It always feels like time pressure.

    An interesting post Shamus, but if Anonymous really works the way you say it does, why can’t a group like the FBI infiltrate it and find out what it’s next targets are going to be so that they can be fortified?

    And how does a group with no cohesion, as you make Anonymous out to be, know when and where to meet? How can an organization, even a distributed anonymous organization, exist without some level of structure?

    Maybe the focus should be more along the lines of: “how do we stop faceless bands of hackers from causing damage?” rather than “how do we catch and punish faceless bands of hackers?”

    It reminds me of something Notch was saying when he was talking about Piracy. Our old models of commerce are outdated when taking into account internet commerce. Maybe our old models of security are outmoded too.
    (edited for grammer)

    1. Shamus says:

      “An interesting post Shamus, but if Anonymous really works the way you say it does, why can't a group like the FBI infiltrate it and find out what it's next targets are going to be so that they can be fortified?”

      I’ve been wondering that myself.

      1. randomreader says:

        Who says they aren’t (at least to some extent)? Not going to hear much about attacks that don’t happen. Also I’m sure like most people they are 90% talk and 10% action (if that) so the FBI would be on wild goose chases all the time. Another thing – as sony’s properties getting hacked over and over and over again shows, you can’t go from shit security to good security overnight.

        1. Shamus says:

          All very good points.

        2. Fists says:

          Like my approach to playing poker, if you have no idea what you’re doing people can’t read you

          1. Yar Kramer says:

            I discovered that this wasn’t very helpful when my opponents were Max, Strong Bad, Heavy, and Tycho …

            1. Someone says:

              It doesn’t give you the edge when EVERYONE uses it.

              1. Eddie says:

                You just have to be the most clueless person there.

                1. Ergonomic Cat says:

                  Tycho’s the only one who isn’t highly painful to play. Tycho plays tight and careful. At the same time, it’s really hard to knock him out, because he won’t go in unless he’s got the cards. Made it a real annoyance to get his watch. The others were easy – draw them in on a reasonable hand, and throw all-in. They’ll follow. Tycho just folds out, unless you’ve trapped him pretty well, and then you really have to have the better hand.

        3. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Furthermore, if the FBI did infiltrate Anonymous and told the upcoming victims, it would quickly become clear that there was a mole, and it would become quickly possible to (by comparing who knows what) determine who the leak is. Since nobody knows who anyone else actually is, there’s plenty of time to find the mole as well.

      2. Raygereio says:

        From what I’ve gather; while it’s very easy to get into the Anonymous club, the actual group that organizes things is a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” sort of deal, which makes it rather difficult to infiltrate.

        1. Zukhramm says:

          I’m nor sure but I would think that there is not one but multiple groups organizing things within Anonymous. Just looking at their list of activities on Wikipedia, I think it’s safe to assume that many of these things are done by quite different groups of people. The Extra Credits video describes them as a movement rather than an organization, which I think is the most accurate way I’ve heard them described so far.

        2. Rax says:

          It’s really not that kind of deal. How would it work?
          “Hey, I’d like to help your anonymous shenanigans”
          -“Alright, we’ll contact you if something comes up”
          “Wait, if we’re all anonymous, how would you…”
          -“Oh, right..”

          It’s a deal of “I’ll throw my idea to do something into a pit of thousands of people, there’s gotty be a few who also think it’s good

      3. Ingvar M says:

        My understanding is “on IRC and 4chan” (for the meeting and organising). It MAY be possible to get a list of all people who have been participating in the discussions, but it’s not necessarily so that someone who has partaken of the discussion is part of the action(s).

        Plus, what you can compel is a list of IP addresses and what with TOR and the like, it’s not obviously useful to tie it to a specific individual.

      4. Mari says:

        The Guardian reported yesterday that 1 in 4 hackers is an FBI informant. Clearly, this isn’t making a huge impact in actual hacking, but is apparently breeding an environment of fear and mistrust among hackers.

    2. Jeff says:

      The recent revolutions in the Middle East is a good example of how they organize. They know where and when to meet up because of digital word of mouth.

      Structure arises naturally – the charismatic and the able rise to the top and become “leaders”. They’re leaders not because people tell them to be, or because they choose to be, but because people just naturally start listening to them.

      1. Rax says:

        There’s one major flaw in this argument: If most of the comunication is done anonymously, you never know if a follow-up post on a topic is done by the original “leader” or some posing as him. There are ways around this, many chans use “tripcodes”, which are unique to a single user (but are only displayed if the user want’s it), but those are not often used in a topic that could be compromising in any way.

    3. bbot says:

      There’s the boards, (4chan) which are public and anonymous.

      Then there’s the special interest groups that recruit from, and loosely affiliate with, anonymous. Lulzsec, GNAA, Patriotic Nigras, /i/nsurgency, #partyvan, etc. Membership is invite only, and is very much not-anonymous. They typically coordinate over encrypted IRC, not the boards; so it’s a bit of a misnomer to refer to them as “Anonymous”.

    4. Steve C says:

      FBI: “Hey Sony. Anonymous hackers are after you.”
      Sony rep: “No shit Sherlock.”

      My point is that I imagine that law enforcement does infiltrate these groups. And imagine they do tell targets they are under attack. But I’d also bet that the employees responsible for maintaining their company’s computer security already know that they are under attack. They can see it in statistical analysis of failed attacks in their logs. A spike in that traffic would mean that they’ve been targeted.

      The info from the FBI identifying which organized group of unknown individuals wouldn’t be very useful info to fortify their defenses. It’s not like an approaching army coming over the horizon and you can decide if you want to dig a deeper moat. It’s more like a punch in the dark. You may already feel the hits that you blocked, but it won’t help identify the one that’s going to get you in the face.

    5. Topaz Wolf says:

      I hate to be “that guy”, but isn’t it more likely that the actual Anonymous group is extremely small and most of their accomplishments are just different groups and individuals that use them as a form of scapegoat, making the group both famous and easily utilized for any ill meaning individuals who do not wish to accept blame.

  2. Aldowyn says:

    Dare I say it… FIRST!

    Anyways, despite your idea that Anonymous isn’t as dangerous as some people think, I still believe that there needs to be some way to corral them. We can’t just let them do these kinds of things (not just the PSN hack), because it disrupts the order of things – which, in a world as complicated as ours, can be a VERY bad thing.

    1. Jeff says:

      You’re assuming the order of things is inherently good. What about Wikileaks or the revolutions in the Middle East?

      1. Aldowyn says:

        But they aren’t messing with the revolutions in the middle east. They’re messing with corporations and stuff… Hmm. I should probably know more about what they’ve done before I say more about that. ANYWAY.

        Even if what they want to do IS a good thing, it also opens up the door for others to think they can do whatever they want using the same means – and some of them might be able to. These incidents, in my opinion, show a need for increased security against these types of attacks. To be fair, I have absolutely no clue how feasible that is, but… whatever.

        1. Will says:

          Anonymous mess with whatever the hell has caught the attention of enough members to spontainiously form a semi-organised group. Anonymous has been responsible for noble persuits such as locating and catching a child molester and much less noble persuits like hacking websites for shits and giggles.

          Anonymous is chaotic and uncontrolled, they are neither good nor bad, they’re just Anonymous. While you could in theory destroy the ‘organisation’ (and i use that term lightly) it would require some serious internet-wide censorship which undermines some rather fundamental rights (like free speech) which is why it hasn’t happened in western society.

          1. Sydney says:

            They’re basically a surprisingly-powerful Chaotic-Neutral collective. And act as such.

            It makes it difficult to categorize them.

            1. Blake says:

              They’re not a collective either so much as a mob.

              Everyone is shouting making lots of noise and the moment enough people decide going after something could be fun they all run off and do it, sometimes others join them sometimes not.

    2. RichVR says:

      Dare I say it… FIRST! Nope.

  3. random_physicist says:

    “Barring a truly foolproof way of un-traceably transferring money over national borders that allows both the giver and receiver to exchange money in subpoena-proof anonymity, it would be impossible for them to turn a profit.”

    I think they could use BitCoin to send and receive money in a fully anonymous way, although they couldn’t use credit cards to do that since the credit card companies don’t allow people to buy bitcoins with their cards.


  4. Kelly says:

    Damn it Shamus, it’s obvious from Spoiler Warning S1 that you go to /v/ at least, you should know better than to play into this “Anonymous is an actual organization” nonsense.

    1. Shamus says:

      Never been to /v/. Ever. I visited /b/ once to see what the fuss was about. Saw something bad, never went back.

      As for “Anonymous is an organization”? It’s a group of people of unknown size that sometimes cooperate. Call them whatever you like, but terms like “loosely-affiliated individuals of temporary alliance” don’t exactly make for readability.

      1. Kelly says:

        Maybe it was Josh and Randy that were saying it then, it’s been awhile since I saw the episode.

        Yeah /b/ is essentially anathema to the rest of the site though (which is mostly just talking about video games/anime/comics/film/porn), and the so called “organization” of Anonymous is hated even by the idiots that infest /b/.

        I’ve never understood where people get the idea that Anonymous is some massive, shadowy organization with 4chan as a home base, nothing could be less accurate.

        1. bbot says:

          Saying that idiots infest /b/ implies that /a/, /v/, or /vp/ are at all better.

          1. Zukhramm says:

            They’re all friendlier and saner than the Escapist forums at least.

            1. krellen says:

              Yes, I just got back from there.

              Shamus, thank you thank you for posting your columns on your blog as well as there, so we can comment without having to descend all the way into those depths. The comment thread on this particular article over there is already incredibly ugly.

              1. Jjkaybomb says:

                A lot of threads off his Experienced Points there have gotten really ugly… I just fear to check them now.

                Unless the topic is “innocuous random poll about X” threads on the Escapist get scary quickly. If they didnt start scary right away…. euag.

            2. bbot says:

              Haha, of course they are! The Escapist forums are… forums.

            3. X2-Eliah says:

              Wow. I just went through a bunch of comments on Shamus’s article there.. Wow. So much utter crap and idiocy. And seemingly completely no moderation either.

              1. poiumty says:

                Moderation for what? That forum allows everyone to state their opinions, no matter how ridiculous or crazy. You end up with some infuriating perspectives sometimes, yeah, but censorship isn’t what moderation is about.

              2. Mincecraft says:

                I managed to read two pages of bigoted comments before I completely snapped.

          2. Kelly says:

            Now hold on, lumping anything in with /vp/ is completely unfair.

            1. bbot says:

              I’m still waiting for the punchline on /vp/ and /soc/; something like April Fur’s Day, back in 2005, would be amusing.

        2. Raygereio says:

          I've never understood where people get the idea that Anonymous is some massive, shadowy organization with 4chan as a home base

          Well, Anonymous did originate from 4chan so the association is easily made, and in most media it is presented a some sort of nefarious organisation, plotting your demise in the shadowy corner of the intertubes.

          1. Michael says:

            Great, now I’ve got a mental image of Anons sitting around on black rubber intertubes while plotting the overthrow of some third world dictatorship.

      2. Johan says:

        It’s about as much an “organization” as a bunch of people in a coffee shop. There are regulars and there are drifters and some people will sit at the same table every day, but for the most part the metaphor is people sitting around being upset at things and occasionally saying “something should be done about this.” Then once in a blue moon another table will overhear the conversation and be moved to action. Then action happens… and everyone goes back to their coffee.

        By the very loosest definition it is sort of an organization, but it isn’t an organized organization if that makes any sense.

        In my earlier misspent youth (has it only been a few years!?!) I participated in some anonymous style activities, the Times top 100 poll etc, and that’s usually how it happened. Nothing was really kept over from one action to another besides the knowledge.

      3. Gndwyn says:

        Extra Credits is on the right track thinking of Anonymous as an ideology like Punk instead of a group, but I think it makes even more sense to think of Anonymous as a hobby. Like Skateboarders or LARPers or Video Gamers.

    2. TehShrike says:

      It’s true.

      EVERYONE is a member of Anonymous! It’s just that not everybody knows it. Or does anything. Or uses the name “Anonymous” while they do something.

      1. Yar Kramer says:

        I have a secret alternate internet identity! But both of them are only sort of anonymous, in that not many people know my name in the real world.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Was anyones money actually stolen from those credit cards?I know the information was hacked,but did anyone actually use it?People say that it cant be anonymous because they dont steal money,but I didnt hear that the information was used to actually do that.

    “Think of the picket lines that block government buildings, shut down companies, or blockade traffic during rush hour.”

    I just want to add an interesting example here:For a few days now,entire towns in my country have been blocked by protesters who got screwed over by the government.There are only very narrow and limited ways that these selected towns can be entered now.So yes,what anonymous is doing is nothing new,it only uses different medium.

    1. rrgg says:

      Yes a lot of people have had money stolen so far, although probably not by the hackers, it appears that they are selling most of the credit card numbers online rather than using them themselves.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      Yep. A few guys at my uni course had a number of (rejected by the bank on suspicion, thankfully) kinda-random 500$ purchases queued without their knowledge.

      1. Were any of those instances of fraud linked back to the PlayStation hack though? There are a lot of ways someone could potentially get their hands on your credit card details, not just via PSN.

        As far as I’m aware there is still no evidence that the information stolen has actually been used. According to the BBC “credit card companies have not reported a rise in fraud following the breach”.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Those credit cards were deliberately for PSN use, kept apart from main/primary CCs and only used for PSN-stuff. That’s why the bank picked the new transactions as suspicious in the first place.

          So as far as you’re aware, you are just sticking fingers in your ears and going ‘LALALALALALA I CANNOT HEAR YOU’. A lot of people have reported their CCs – often old CCs at that – used without their consent, and the link has been the psn, which, by the way, was leaked of cc data. You can deny reports left and right if you want, but don’t expect much support when anectdotal and logical evidence stacks up against you..

          Sorry, but all this Anonymous/hacktivist apologism really grinds my gears.. ‘Oh no, it couldn’t have been them, they have ideals’ or ‘well surely you must be mistaken, it was a highly unlikely coincidence, you can’t blame those guys’.. No. Screw that.

          1. I’m not trying to defend the hackers. Whether it was Anonymous or someone else they should be tracked down. The point I was making is that so far there is no more than anecdotal evidence that the card details have been used. Credit card fraud has existed as long as there have been credit cards and PSN is a huge worldwide service, the fact that a PSN user was defrauded following the PSN hack does not automatically link it back to the hackers – maybe they fell for an e-mail scam, maybe someone took a look at the physical card and noted down the number, with the limited details you’ve provided there’s no way we can know for sure what happened.

            What we can do is look at the bigger picture. The hackers didn’t go through all this purely with the intention of stealing a few hundred dollars from a few of your friends, they potentially have the details of 77 million people. If even a tiny percentage of those people fell victim to fraud then it would lead to a huge spike in the numbers. So if the number of cases of credit card fraud goes up in the months following the PSN hack, and if a disproportionately large number of victims were PSN users at the time of the hack, then this would strongly suggest that credit card details have been stolen and used. So far at least, this hasn’t happened; the credit card companies and law enforcement agencies that track this sort of thing have not reported any rise in the figures.

          2. Soylent Dave says:

            Similarly, this post of yours is the first time I’ve seen anyone state categorically that their credit card info was definitely stolen in the PSN hack – and I still have to assume that both you and your friends are a) telling the truth and b) not mistaken in your claims that these cards were exclusively used for PSN.

            (not that I’m suggesting you’re making it up, just highlighting that it’s still anecdotal evidence – it’s the most clear-cut anecdotal evidence I’ve come across thus far, but the point is really that there hasn’t really been anything ‘official’ reported about credit card theft (apart from initial rumours and ‘may have beens’)

            As regards Anonymous and the PSN hack, I tend towards the idea that the hack started out as something anti-Sony – organised (for want of a better word) by Anonymous – and then whoever was directly involved got access to something much bigger than they expected, and took advantage of it for personal gain (either malicious enjoyment or profit, depending on how they’ve used the data).

  6. Jonathan says:

    Side note: I didn’t know what those masks were until I watched V a couple of weeks ago.

    1. krellen says:

      Do you know what they actually are, or do you just associate them with V now? Because V didn’t just make up that mask; it pre-existed the graphic novel and represents something real.

      1. Raygereio says:

        Remember, remember the fifth of November.
        Gunpowder, Treason and Plot.
        I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason
        Should ever be forgot.

        Though didn’t the design of the mask originate from the comic? Similarly, I don’t think I ever saw a Guy Fawkes mask before the movie came out with those things as merchandise.

        1. kanodin says:

          I’m pretty sure the movie just popularized them outside of England instead of creating the specific design.

          1. Soylent Dave says:

            I’m English and I’d never seen that mask design before the film release.

            (that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastically popular somewhere in Britain, of course – but I like to think I would have noticed something like ‘people wearing Guy Fawkes masks’. He only really crops up in effigy* form)

            *It’s an effigy of the Pope really, but don’t tell anyone.

        2. DaveMc says:

          I remember this poem almost in its entirety, but it always frustrates me that I still can never remember the date in it, because “fifth” doesn’t rhyme with anything later on. I end up saying to myself, “Remember, remember, the (mumble) of November … Damn! First? Fourth? Fifth? Can’t be seventh …”

      2. Cody211282 says:

        Well that mask might have represented something different before Anonymous got their hands in it, all it represents now is how to be a coward.

        1. Jeff says:

          Yes, because acting against corporate or government interests, regardless of intent, is such a great idea. Julian Assange is doing just great. As are the Syrian and Libyan protesters.

          1. Cody211282 says:

            The difference between people in Anonymous and the Syrian and Libyan protesters are that the protesters are actually going out and doing something and putting their life on the line for what they believe in, Anonymous is just a bunch of douchebags behind computers to cowardly to do anything else.

            1. Jeff says:

              Just like how archery was “cowardice” and “dishonorable” in European warfare. The whining of those unable to counter effective tactics.

              1. Cody211282 says:

                Nope, archers are actually on the battlefield doing something. Defend the cowards all you want but they wouldn’t have the stones to do anything that would remotely inconvenience them. What they are doing is the equivalent of Rosa Parks hiding a dead fish on the bus when no one is looking rather then what she really did.

              2. Soylent Dave says:

                It was crossbows that were dishonourable, because they didn’t require much training (so a relatively untrained and cheap-to-equip peasant could take down a highly expensive, years-in-the-making knight).

                It was mainly the subversion of the natural order (‘nobles are inherently better people’) that was objected to, though.

                (and so the Papacy outlawed crossbows for use in Christian armies, and then equipped its own Papal armies with hundreds of them…)

    2. Daimbert says:

      V for Vendetta, you mean. V without that is something else entirely, but oddly it also uses masks.

      1. krellen says:

        It used to be only us old fogeys remembered V, but then they remade it.

        1. Irridium says:

          They remade it? When the hell was this?

          And to be clear, we’re talking about that old sci-fi show with the aliens that came to Earth to harvest us as food/soldiers who we pushed away with Red Dust, right?

          1. krellen says:

            The remake is a couple years old now.

            1. Ergonomic Cat says:

              The remake is also cancelled as of this season.

              But it starred Monica Bacarin (sp?) – Inara from Firefly. Also the blonde that played Juliette in Lost.

          2. Avilan says:

            No they didn’t. They made a something they called “V”, but was… awful.

            On the other hand remakes are the new black since it doesn’t take any real imagination.

            1. Gale says:

              Eh. Given how often a “remake” will have basically nothing to do with what it’s based on, I’d say they take about as much imagination as anything else.

              1. krellen says:

                Here’s looking at you, XCOM.

            2. Soylent Dave says:

              Oh, it was okay (in a ‘about as good as Stargate’ kinda way).

              I mean, they felt the urge to clearly and explicitly label every single characters as GOOD GUY or BAD GUY within 5 seconds of appearing on screen, and the stories were clearly and explicitly explained to the audience in words of 4 syllables or less, but it was entertaining enough.

              It was better than that V spin off where Diana gets married and forgets to do her cool alien voice, anyway.

    3. Jonathan says:

      Once I saw the movie, I realized that they were Guy Fawkes masks from the context given there. I’d read of the concept growing up (I used to read a lot of books written on paper), but had never seen any pictures.

  7. rrgg says:

    Anonymous is a terror organization following in Guy Fawkes footsteps in order to overthrow the government and install a Catholic theocracy.

    Yup, all true.

    In seriousness though I think extra credits was greatly overestimating any of it’s virtues and I really doubt it has a very strong command structure at the moment if any at all. Even without any association with criminals it is already suffering greatly from from the large number trolls and pranksters in it’s ranks. Anonymous has more or less become little more than shield for people to launch overly offensive or pointless attacks for little reason other than laughs. If they really want to have a positive effect they probably need a major image overhaul.

    To answer your conundrum keep in mind that peaceful protesters who get arrested in America gain publicity, people who launch attacks from the shadows look like terrorists.

    1. Wtrmute says:

      Naturally, Guy Fawkes wasn’t the originator of that plot, either; he was just the grunt who had the bad luck to get busted when the cops invaded the place. The actual leaders of the plot probably ran away to (then-Catholic) France for a few years until the heat died down…

  8. Susie Day says:

    I find it amusing that the linked article crashes my firefox as soon as it finishes loading.

  9. Rax says:

    Damn, I’d really like to post a comment of similar length to the original column, mostly regarding the effectiveness and even more the exploitability of anonymous… oh what the hell:
    I’m a fairly regular user of “chans” (aka. one of the supposedly most used form of communication of anonmyous) and from what I’ve experienced, everything that’s said about anonymous is blown waaay out of proportion. Sure, they’re really good at harrasing people of anger them*, but in the age of the internet that’s not really hard to do even for one person alone. They also had a “succesful” strike (read: ddos attack) against the australian government* fairly recently, but that’s hardly the work of “hackers on steroids”*.
    The reason why they could pull this off was because someone wrote a program to ddos any ip-adress you type into it and told people how to use it.
    You see, while all this “hackers on steroids”-stuff might have been true some day, lot’s of media attention and the like have made the group quite popular.
    I wouldn’t find it hard to believe that alomst every teenager with a computer at his disposal at least -out of curiosity- checked out some chans and most likely most of them -but not all- were turned away by the awful lot of stuff that’s posted there that has nothing to do with what you hear about anonymous, is not funny, not interesting, but very, very, very offensive to many people.
    Much of this stuff comes from people who heard about anonymous, but didn’t understand it quite right, it’s not some organisation of people who stand against everything society sees as normal now (I’ll not distract myself by talking about political correctens, but much of it has to do with it, mostly with what is considered racist or just “indecent”). Because of this, most likely, many of the people who were responsible for the deeds which made anonymous so popular wandered off.
    Maybe they formed some kind of new “society”, with new channels of comunication, but with the inability to tell many people (because they didn’t know them in the first place and just anouncing it in the original chans would have made the “newcomers” switch, too) those are probably not very big and defeat the defintion of “anonymous” as what it is percieved -by the media and thus most people- today.
    Holy hell, I’m way off-topic by now, what I mean to say is:
    All this has left anonymous -kind of- in the hands of a few people who actually know what they are doing and can put up with the garbage posted 99.999% (that’s way too few 9s) of the time. The ddos attack on australia already had me wondering: “Ok, I’m on a board mostly populated by people who say about themselve, that they don’t like society and everything it brings with it. One of those people now tells the rest to download some .exe, put in some ip-address and supposedly this will ddoss the australian government”. I guess you see where I’m going with this.
    While it worked in that special case, who says that not every computer (which belongs to someone who doesn’t really know what he’s doing) on which this .exe has been downloaded and executed is not part of a bot-network now and who can tell (again: except for people who didn’t need the instructions anyway) that the given ip-adress was in any way right?
    You see, because anonymous is such a big “organisation” there have to be many people who still -even though there is no real “leadership”- just follow orders. The ExtraCredit Video mentioned hackers posing as anonymous to blame them, but in reality it could be people USING this big “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I wanna be part of this”-group of anonymous to their advantage.

    As a site-note: The idea of anonymous sure is fascinating, but if you really think about it, it’s obvious that it can’t be what many people make of it. A comunity of maybe a few thousand people (acutally many more since ten-thousands wouldn’t even cover the “posts per minute”-count of popular chans) can’t really be rallied together and even if they could, there’ll always be times in which nothing really oposable happens that hasn’t been discussed to death already. So it’s not like a secret society, meeting anonymously to discuss and carry out plans, it’s a message/image-board with a wide variety of topics and only an almost insignificate amount of them have anything to do with “anonymous” at all.

    *since I’m not very good at links-in-text google some key-words from the sentence if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

  10. Naivul says:

    Come on Shamus. Anonymous isn’t a group at all. I’m always surprised when people say so. What is it? It’s simply the userbase of what is probably the biggest forum and it’s clones.

    It’s not a group. There is no shared vision. There is no common cause. It’s just random people going on an anonymous forum to post some random things without censorship. You’ve visited 4chan to see what it’s like? Well you’re part of “the group” too. How many credit cards did you receive in your group newsletter? ;)

    It’s just a big forum. Sometimes you’ll get a member who’s going to have a bright (read: stupid) idea along the line of “Hey guys. My ex is working at Pizza Hut tonight at 123-4567. Everyone call her and ask for fake orders!” and some guys will go along. They may even discuss making protests outside of Scientology. But it’s not some secret club of elite hackers. You will not see a serious discussion about organizing and committing such a grievous federal crime. 4chan may be an anonymous forum but there are still some rules of conducts. So if a couple of guys who visit 4chan decided to hack Sony, they did it on their own outside of 4chan.

    “Anonymous” is as much a group as being a subscriber of World of Warcraft makes you part of a group. In fact, World of Warcraft players as a group have about as much to do with the Sony hacking as the users of 4chan do, because the guys who did it are probably part of both “groups”.

    Why then all this publicity and talk about the “Anonymous group”? Why do some people even want to believe they are part of such a group? Because it’s catchy and romantic. It’s a secret organization named after the word describing the state of having no individuality. It stir the imagination. In truth it’s just a bunch of random guys on a forum.

    This reminds me the “someone was murdered and the killer played video games in his life. Video games are to blame” mentality. It comes from an outsider mentality and a good bit of make believe but not much real information.

    1. krellen says:

      I think you meant to say “state of having no identity“, not individuality.

  11. BlackBloc says:

    Anonymous is a joke and/or meme. Nothing more. Back when I was in college, during the Net’s infancy, we would go around quoting from Principia Discordia, or mess around on the conspiracy newsgroups on Usenet by pretending we were Illuminati insiders revealing secrets to them, or fake-trying to delete their messages *as a lark* so they would think there was an actual all-powerful conspiracy trying to silence them. That was back when only hardcore geeks actually knew what the Internet was, and I bought myself one of them shiny awesome 14.4K bauds modems (surfing *in style* my friends!).

    The fact we went out and pranked people under the name of the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria does not mean the Illuminati existed, anymore than a bunch of pranksters and black hat hackers using the 4chan meme of Anonymous as a shadowy organization suddenly makes Anonymous an actual, existing entity. They play that joke to the max and deliberatly pretend it’s all very serious as an extended prank on the mainstream media.

    Most of the people who are interested in Anonymous as a meme vaguely share some values (the idea that the Internet should be, well, anonymous being the main one) but that does not an organisation make.

    1. Ergonomic Cat says:

      We of the Illuminati thank you for your efforts at misdirection.

      I actually worked for Illuminati Online. It was spectacular. During my time, I claimed the “Answering nutballs email” position. Maybe once every couple weeks, we would get an email ranting about the NWO, or accusing us of something, or asking for more power, or what have you.

      I had a separate email address that I used to answer them, and was allowed to have as much fun as I wanted. Best job ever. I signed my emails “Junior Light-Obscurer” and such.

      In related news, the IO.com domain was sold this week, and will be dismantled. Sad news to some of us. Good news for the Gnomes of Zurich, tho.

      Also, random trivia: George W.’s servers for all his presidential campaign sites were hosted on site at Illuminati Online. I found that mind-bogglingly hilarious. There’s a huge conspiracy theory waiting to happen there, although the reality is boring (as it always is) – one of the web guys for some of his stuff was friends with some of the admins, iirc, so put the boxes there.

      1. BlackBloc says:

        There's a huge conspiracy theory waiting to happen there, although the reality is boring (as it always is) ““ one of the web guys for some of his stuff was friends with some of the admins, iirc, so put the boxes there.

        That’s what you would want us to think.

  12. BlackBloc says:

    In addition: many people just CAN’T accept the idea that people would mess with them just out of the sheer desire to have fun at their expense (for the lulz indeed). The fact we were spoofing delete messages to Usenet to get rid of the crankiest crackpots was, ipso facto, a proof to them and their crowd that the NWO existed. Who else could it have been? None of them could ever emotionally accept the reality that they were pranked by kids.

    Back then, too, the Net was a pretty obscure thing. Nowadays everyone is online, so Anonymous has a much richer environment to propagate as a meme than all these proto troll associations from the mid-90s. In contrast, who still remembers the Discordians’ Operation Mindfuck?

  13. poiumty says:

    You know, I’m of the impression that people just don’t realise how easily someone can be “hacked” on the internet.
    So people tend to blame anonymous for “hacking” someone and automatically assume they’re some hardcore code junkie wizards who wield internet magic. In truth, accusing anonymous of something is futile for the simple fact that anyone can be “anonymous”. Most likely, members of this non-organization are coming and going constantly depending on the cause they want to support and I very much doubt it’s always the same people responsible for every attack.
    I have a friend who participated in DDOS-ing mastercard.com in response to the wikileaks scandal. He has no affilitation with anonymous and this is the only thing he did that could relate to them.
    People can get their accounts compromised very easily on the internet. All it requires is you be sloppy with your secret questions and answers for recovering your passwords on your accounts. Anyone can access password recovery. I remember a case where someone “hacked” a famous celebrity’s youtube account without knowing anything about hacking: her secret question was “what high-school I graduated from” and a quick trip to the wikipedia page gave that answer. From there, if she also made the blunder of using the same password for all her internet services… well, to the uninformed, this is a feat of hacking prowess equivalent to casually breaking all security on youtube, facebook, twitter etc at the same time. Truly no one is safe from the hacking menace.

  14. David Armstrong says:

    So I’m going to be the one guy here with common sense and just say it:

    There is no “Anonymous Group.” It’s just a facade that jerks throw up when they’re caught, or when they want to be particularly trollish. You see someone post a pic of Pedobear – the poster isn’t actually a pedophile, they’re just being part of a faceless crowd.

    A Patrolman pulls over a car. He finds pot on the driver. “Oh, that’s not mine…”

    It’s like that. There is no Anonymous, it’s just an identity internet jerks and trolls say when they want to be ominous. That “Extra Credits” was so praising and so full of shit – it’s easy to call Sony liars, a company with an actual structure, but when internet jerks say “Wasn’t us!” we believe them. Yea, sure whatever.

    This is the same internet of people where, when Blizzard wanted Real ID, they screamed bloody murder. These people who are so wanting to stay “anonymous,” versus the word of a company with actual executive with actual names, and we implicitly believe the cowardly, faceless, nameless, internet jerks who HAVE A GODDAMN REPUTATION of breaking into places they don’t belong.

    We don’t believe in Sony, a company with an address and named employees, who are answerable to authorities and stockholders alike. Jesus Christ people, wake up!

    1. Shamus says:

      You’re saying Anonymous doesn’t exist, but then you say, ” It's just a facade that jerks throw up when they're caught, or when they want to be particularly trollish.”

      So they DON’T exist, but they ARE jerks and trolls? You are talking in circles.

      There is no Anonymous? Then what ELSE do we call the people who claim to be Anonymous? “These are people who claim to be anonymous but aren’t because Anonymous doesn’t exist” is a terrible name for a thing. You can argue about the structure of the group, or lack thereof, but you can’t insist we NOT call them Anonymous.

      Stop telling people to “wake up” and claiming to have “common sense” when you’re contradicting yourself. While using Angry Indignant Internet Man voice, no less.

      1) Sometimes things are done.
      2) The people who do those things call themselves Anonymous.
      3) In return, we call those people who call themselves Anonymous, Anonymous.

      It really is an easy concept to grasp.

      1. Fat Tony says:

        *Starts slow clapping*

      2. DaveMc says:

        I believe Mr. Armstrong is contending that you needn’t call the people who claim to be part of Anonymous anything, because their claim is simply a lie. Any given person simply self-identifies as part of Anonymous whenever they feel like it, so in that sense there’s no real group, and no need to acknowledge the group as having a real existence, any more than we would say that the group “haxxors” exists because people sometimes describe themselves as part of it.

        Now, I actually disagree with this contention, personally, but I’m not so sure that it’s internally contradictory. It’s an interesting question, as various people including Shamus have discussed, as to whether something as amorphous as Anonymous really deserves to be considered a “group” in the way we’re used to understanding the term. From what I can see, there’s enough coherence there for people to know what they mean when they say “Anonymous”, and for there to be a reasonable discussion of the group’s ideals, so for my money that means that there’s something real going on, there.

        As you say, Mr. Armstrong does fall prey to speaking about “them” as if they were an actual group (of “cowardly, faceless, nameless, internet jerks who HAVE A GODDAMN REPUTATION of breaking into places they don't belong”), which rather undercuts the idea that there is no “them” to discuss.

        1. BlackBloc says:

          Anonymous isn’t merely amorphous or decentralized. Even the ELF and ALF, which are more or less nothing more than brands that anyone can claim for themselves, have more existence than Anonymous. They have manifestos, they have a press bureau (a single guy whose only work for the organisation is to receive communiqués and who explicitly keeps his nose out of anything illegal and knows nobody involved in any actions) and an ideology to call their own.

        2. Bubble181 says:

          Well, I can sort of see his point.

          Terrorist organisations sometimes work the same way. Person X decides to car-bomb a police station; they can claim they were doing it “for Al Qaeda”, without anyone or anything of Al Qaeda having anything to do with it. It’ll still make the bombing seem more serious, and part of a larger, over-all front against (America/the West/the government/Christianity/whatever). In the same way, if person X decides to hack the database of the French tax office and deletes 5 years worth of tax data for 10 companies, for the lulz or for some more nefarious reason, he can claim it was “Anonymous” just to make it seem part of some big plot to destabilize the world; blahblahblah. That doesn’t mean there actually *is* a y Anonymous to refer back to, and certainly not that the person doing it had anything to do with the attack.

          I could hack shamusyoung.com and put up a great big honking banner saying EA SPORTS HACKED THIS SITE TO STOP THE ANTI-DRM FIGHT, but that wouldn’t mean EA actually did this. Or would even do something like that. Or whatever.

      3. Helm says:

        “While using Angry Indignant Internet Man voice, no less.”

        Shamus that’s just made of win nice one I will be stealing it and blatantly failing to credit you with it bwaahaaaaaaaaaa!

      4. Soylent Dave says:

        Might I suggest “The Organisation Formerly Known As Anonymous”?

        (PS I bet you’re enjoying all the extra moderating that’s come with writing a topic where every other comment has the word ‘anonymous’ in it…)

      5. ehlijen says:

        While I agree with your claim of using faulty logic and argumentation, the point is valid I find.

        For some reason the term “anonymous” has gained a reputation of consisting mostly of internet freedom fighters, and that reputation is used as a shield by anyone wishing to defend their own actions that were conducted for their own goals.

        Anonymous is not a group. It’s a mantle anyone is allowed to take up and that grants an aura of nobility to even the worst crimes in some cases.

        Some things that are done by people and attributed to anynomous are good. Some are not. Claiming to be part of anonymous is like claiming to be a political activist but not specifying what party you stand for or just what activist means to you. Does it mean you attend rallies? Just that you actually vote? Or does it mean you break into labs and release the test animals?

        Anonymous as a whole should not be praised for the good actions of a few self proclaimed members, but neither should it be blamed as a whole for the bad actions of others.

      6. Slothful says:

        I propose we call them Anymoose.

        Because that would lead to so many great pictures.

      7. Zaghadka says:

        I think what offends him is to call Anonymous a “group.” That they are people, with any sort of organization, and any sort of unified or inchoate goal other than screwing with people, for lulz.

        In that context, it’s a principle. Like people walking in, singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant, and walking out. We don’t care if Alice’s Restaurant is a real place or not. Enough people do it and someone might actually think there’s a movement.

        So jerks, criminals, and pranksters certainly exist. But in this telling, Anonymous is just an ominous way to make people think there is a movement, when there actually isn’t. It’s just a meta-prank or a bogey man. Like the cake, it’s a lie.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes,lets all believe sony,the company that included a rootkit in their copy protection,because they have an adress and named employees.Why should we trust anonymous people on the internet who claim that they arent associated with Anonymous,when it was other anonymous people who cried bloody murder when another company wanted to store their personal information(which has proved to be such a great idea)?

      Oh,and how come there is no Anonymous group when they are a bunch of people with reputation of breaking into places they dont belong in?Does the group exist or not,make up your mind.

  15. I’ll ask this first:

    Was it ever confirmed by an official source (Sony, police, FBI, etc.) that credit card information WAS compromised AND taken?

    Last I heard, personal information ‘was made available to unknown third parties’ and that ‘may include credit card information’. While I haven’t read every single article regarding the PSN debacle, I’ve read a fair amount and I’m pretty sure I would’ve noticed if confirmation had been published, but who knows…

    As of the information I’m aware of now, I can absolutely believe Anonymous was behind the attack. I can easily see this being done in retaliation to some perceived wrong, for the lulz, or any of the other motivations that motivate Anonymous. Saying they didn’t do it because they have no need to steal money doesn’t gel with me cause – as I said – there’s no real proof that was their goal.

  16. X2-Eliah says:

    Hm. This is all fine & dandy, defining what Anonymous is or isn’t and so on – but I’d just like to say that I really can’t stand the prevalent apologism of Anonymous/hackers who hide under that moniker.

    Like – they are doing criminal stuff, they are making normal people’s lives a mess ‘for the lulz’ (what the hell? Isn’t that your typical 5th grade schoolyard-bully logic?), they are ‘harming’ companies by screwing over their customers – and yet people keep on praising them. ‘But but but they totally are against the eeeevil NWO, dude’ or ‘Myeah, but it wasn’t really them that did all that bad stuff, it was some other dudes. But all the good stuff, yeah, they totally did it, tru story bro.’
    Even the Extra Credits episode Shamus referred to is more or less a love letter to Anonymous, completely ignoring the fact that the guys/people/whatever behind the concept (and no, screw whatever whining objections you may have about what is and what isn’t anonymous, we all understand the idea) are jerks and, basically, criminals.
    Why do people then glorify them? Is it out of fear for reprisal? Wanting to ‘belong to the cool kids club’ (refer to the schoolyard-bully comparison)?

    1. Klay F. says:

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. We get it already. They are criminals, they deserve to be in jail, blah-de-blah-de-fuckin-blah.

      The fact remains that while they might do some cruel things once in a while, and are frequently annoying, when things they care about are threatened (like WikiLeaks) they defend those things with ferocity. The WikiLeaks incidents (and, consequently, governments world-wide engaging in a smear/distraction campaign of disgusting proportions) is the singular reason I treat Anon with a grudging respect. Its the reason I went from tolerating my government, to actively hating it.

      1. Jeff says:

        I think that essentially, they’re seen as our terrorists who are more or less on “our” side. Kinda like the popular support for Jesse James.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          But terrorists in general are bad, *regardless* of the side their on. It’s like radical anti-war groups – yes, they share the same message as a large majority of us, but their method actively harms our chance of our message getting across.

          1. Soylent Dave says:

            Not everyone would agree with that point.

            Plenty of terrorists get called ‘freedom fighters’ by the people they’re fighting on behalf of.

            The IRA had (and have) a lot of popular support in Northern Ireland. They also deliberately targeted civilians (and children) during their bombing campaigns. Are they the bad guys?

            The IRA are acting (partly) in response to atrocities committed by the British Army in Northern Ireland, as well as the perceived illegal occupation – are the British the bad guys then?

            I’m not a fan of the IRA – they have tried to kill me at least twice* – but they wouldn’t have been able to oppose the British Army with conventional warfare, and Sinn Fein weren’t taken seriously as a political entity prior to the Troubles (whereas now they have members of Parliament).

            The same can be said of the American War of Independence – most of your Founding Fathers were probably regarded as terrorists (and traitors). They definitely attacked and occupied civilian targets (where not everyone was in support of their goals) and engaged in sabotage and perfidy. Does that make them bad guys?

            How else could they have opposed the British Empire?

            The unfortunate reality is that acts of terrorism are often the best or only way small groups have to get their message heard (these terrorists eventually have to evolve into political groups if they ever want to actually achieve their goals, of course – but a purely political approach is rarely successful).

            I’m not saying I agree at all with the murder of civilians as the means to a political end – just that it has historically been successful (often by groups that ultimately ended up being regarded as legitimate). Labelling groups ‘bad guys’ and ‘good guys’ is therefore too simplistic, I think.

            *Not specifically; I was just in the area.

          2. BlackBloc says:

            The goal of an anti-war group is to stop a war from happening, not to ‘spread a message’. Postmodernism has so infected the mainstream Left that people actually can’t differentiate the map and the territory anymore.

            Spreading a message is a tactic. Stopping the war is a goal. Spreading the message, educating the masses, whatever… is not the purpose, it’s one possible method of attaining the goal. ‘Spreading the message’ buys into many premises that are unwarranted:

            a) if the purpose is to spread the messages to the masses, it assumes the masses have the power to stop the war under the current system of government (which is a specious liberal-democratic article of faith)

            b) if the purpose is to spread the message to the ruling elite (the politicians or those responsible for making the decisions), it assumes the legitimacy of these authorities

            In the real world (where both a and b are untenable), if you want to stop a war your best bet is probably to make your best attempt at making it logistically impossible for the government to pursue that war. It involves making it economically unfeasible to pursue the war, either by cutting off the supplie lines (Ireland protesters who blocked the train tracks during the build up to the Iraq war) or disrupting the supply of personnel (groups that kicked military recruiters off campus during the Vietnam and Iraq war eras). Amongst other possible methods.

            1. Shamus says:

              No politics.

              Thank you.

  17. Alexander The 1st says:

    I have an issue with your statement that their protests are like picketers in that they shouldn’t be put to jail.

    Unlike picketers, who peacefully don’t graffiti or deliberately trigger security lock downs of a building, Anonymous has been known to do that.

    For example, IIRC, the one time they protested that attempt to filter Australian internet traffic, they replaced some text on that site to make a point (I think this was Anon, hence IIRC.

    Then, with PSN and similar attacks, it was more of a “throwing a shoe through the window of a bank in protest of sub-primes” esque protest. That’s a bit far, and worthy of arresting the person.

    Especially since, in the PSN case, Sony was busy dealing with that thrown shoe, and wasn’t able to notice the robbers of other hackers throwing shoes at windows on the other side of the building to get access to bank funds. Un-related events, but one allowed the passage of the other.

    1. Shamus says:

      I didn’t say they shouldn’t be thrown in jail. I was careful about that. I said, “This isn’t to say that their actions are inconsequential or should go un-punished, but that we shouldn’t blow them out of proportion.”

      I’m all for bringing them to justice, I just don’t think they are nearly as dangerous as people give them credit for.

      1. Alexander The 1st says:

        Yeah, I suppose that’s fair.

        I mean, yeah, they’re not a set of violent protestors (That would be Lulzsec, the group that’s releasing user info), but they aren’t peaceful protestors either. They’re more of the vandilising protestor.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Unlike picketers, who peacefully don't graffiti or deliberately trigger security lock downs of a building, Anonymous has been known to do that.”

      Like Ive stated above,a group of peaceful protesters had whole towns in my country locked down almost completely(only trains were left to operate normally).And if I recall the news correctly,those union protests in usa left quite the mess after they were over.

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,is it just me or is your filter picking up the A word as something bad?

  19. Cybron says:

    The problem with these discussion is the tendency of observers to confuse Anonymous (a nebulously defined group of people or perhaps a group of groups) with the anonymous imageboard subculture (IE the inhabitants of the *chans, of which 4chan is the most famous). Your average imageboard user has no association with the ‘group’ Anonymous. However, many outside observers tend to view the two as one of the same, perhaps because they can’t be bothered to learn the difference.

    Any citation of actions carried out by the inhabitants of the chans (such as the Jessie Slaughter incident I see being bandied about in the Escapist forums) has minimal relevance to the group allegedly responsible for the PSN hacking. There are some cases where the two interact, but they mostly inhabit entirely separate spheres.

    I also would contest the existence of the Anonymous group as the singular entity many people seem to believe it is, but that’s another post.

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