Anonymous: 'Never forgive, never forget. Expect us.'
The group referred to as Anonymous downed the Central Intelligence Agency's website last week, adding it to the list of banks, copyright holders, private interests and other government agencies whose sites have become victim to the loosely structured "hacktivist" organization.
In 2012 alone, Anonymous has claimed responsibility for overwhelming the Justice Department's website, knocking the Citigroup and Citibank sites offline, the hacking and releasing of hundreds of emails from Syrian President Bashar Assad's office, and intercepting and releasing a recording of a conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard.
Anonymous has announced its solidarity with WikiLeaks, the Occupy Wall Street and Arab Spring movements. The group's internet activism has been largely targeted towards organizations and authorities that have condemned or attacked the protest movements.
While generating a great deal of attention, the actual effect of Anonymous' "hacktivism" seems to be indeterminable. "You can't take wall of the resources and point out a single source," said Dorothy Denning, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California. "We have to be careful not to give them too much credit."
"Shutting down a website is fairly trivial if you know what you are doing," said DePaul CDM professor Jacob Furst.
Even so, Anonymous seems to be aware of the dangerous nature of much data within government servers.
"Compromising national security doesn't seem to fit their agenda," said Furst.
Many protestors within Occupy movements are fully supportive of Anonymous and other "hacktivist" groups. "The Internet helps a lot," said Occupy Chicago protester Tony Norris, who participates in protests 12 hours each day at Jackson Boulevard and LaSalle Street.
"It's all in solidarity with the same goal, with the same movement to let people know what is happening with this country, let people know how much their vote really counts."
It is difficult to establish the scope or the coherence of Anonymous, as they release little to no information on their projects' means. "If you believe what Anonymous writes, they are not organized at all," said Furst. "Ideas are probably exchanged on a bulletin board or chatroom. If the idea appeals to a large enough group, the group acts on it."
Anonymous followed the lead of WikiLeaks in 2010 after the latter's leader and spokesperson, Julian Assange, was jailed in England for sexual abuse charges in Sweden.
After Assange was initially denied bail, Anonymous attacked the websites of several "enemies" of WikiLeaks including sites of MasterCard, Paypal and Amazon. Since then, Anonymous has regularly released classified government documents and information from dozens of governments and companies on its Twitter account, @Anonymous.
Anonymous leaked a series of hacked FBI files on Twitter, Friday, Feb. 10. In early February, Anonymous released a 16-minute recording of a telephone conversation between the bureau, Scotland Yard and other foreign government agencies in which the groups compared investigations into various "hacktivists."
Anonymous operates in such a way that allows members of the group to avoid culpability. "It is very hard to trace online accounts," said Furst. "In the case of the CIA,Anonymous was probably attacking it through innocent people's computers."
Unless authorities can find out a way to trace the hackers, there seems to be little hope in taking down the group that makes a priority to conceal members identities.
As for now, police agencies throughout the world seem to be a step behind the hacker groups. With no real means to stop the activity of "hacktivists," one can only expect Anonymous to adhere to its mission statement which reads:
"We are Anonymous, We are legion, We never forgive, We never forget, Expect us."