Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hippies to Hacktivists: The Wave of Hackers, Hacktivists and Anonymous

Hippies to Hacktivists: The Wave of Hackers, Hacktivists and Anonymous

FINAL PAPER: Hippies to Hacktivists: The Wave of Hackers, Hacktivists and Anonymous

                                                            “We are Anonymous.

                   We are Legion.
                     We do not forgive.
                   We do not forget.
                    Expect us.”-
                 The Anonymous Mantra
Since the early 50’s computer scientists and code writing experts have had their own brand of internal fixers.  People who harbor the knowledge to be able to use their computer skills to openly repair and mend a technical problem that is computer based beyond the scope of what many of us can accomplish using computers and the Internet.  They also have the power to destroy and reek havoc through their actions online.  These individuals over the years have developed in what many see as computer hacktivists, hackers with altruistic motives dedicated to preserving  the integrity of the Internet and the freedom’s that are available online.  Perhaps the Hippie movement of the 60’s has evolved online to find and define a new movement that we now call hacktivism and in many circles they are perceived as guardians of the new information world over the Internet….modern day Robin Hoods.  In order to understand this new breed of hacktivism we must take a closer look at the hacker and his psyche along with the ways they have evolved into a new grouping of online hacktivists who claim to be keepers of our freedoms over the internet utilizing terroristic methods online attempting to protect out freedoms of speech while preventing censorship.  From this group of cyber techs comes a whole new group that we will explore.  They call themselves Anonymous and to this day they claim to protect even more of our freedoms by singling out certain online communities that they regard as dangerous to our online Internet freedoms.  To better understand this grouping of advanced online new age Hippies we must first understand the mindset of the hacker and how they have evolved into what is now known “hacktivistically” as Anonymous.  Let this journey begin.

Many hackers of today are not only fixers that have arisen from the 1969 creation of ARPANET, the prototype for a series of computers with intercontinental connections developed for military communications by the US Department of Defense but they also carry with them a manifesto or code of hacker ethics that many of them believe in and live by through their actions over the Internet.  Are they Robin Hoods of the computer era willing to try anything for a few hours of notoriety?  Are they autistic geniuses or angry adolescents?  Perhaps political activists?   Whatever they may be they have taken what many of the 60’s Hippy movement accomplished in that time and brought many of the same tactics to the playing field of the Internet where their skills can be tunneled into devastating proportions of manipulation sometimes for the sake of a cause or sometimes just for the sake of getting that high by solving complex computer codes and unraveling websites.  They then place their banners for thousands to see and view once their pirating charade has been accomplished.  Hackers have had their own language and jargon over the net that has evolved into what many people refer to as the computer hacktivist.  Some of the terms make complete sense and follow a common profile of computer guru’s who enjoy creating havoc and chaos.  The HACKER is followed by a group that is similar called CRACKERS.  The difference lies in their motivation.  Hackers CREATE while crackers DESTROY.  Antifork, an Italian hack research group (www.antifork.org) defines hackers with “superior knowledge, research and ultimate perfection.”  These bands of fixers require planning and organization as well as acuteness and inventiveness.  Many came out of computer science developers from MIT and University of California at Berkeley.  Their movements have been based on the OPEN SOURCE protocol of the 1990’s mostly those who knew the intricacies of UNIX based computer programming. To be a hacker you must be engaged in work that constantly challenges the user both on a code breaking level and website innovation strategy.  Most of what became the Hacker Manifesto was established by Lloyd Blankenship written immediately following his arrest and first published in January of 1986.  Anger is directed towards the STATUS QUO.  Solidarity comes by knowing you are part of a group or hacker community seeking solidarity.  The hacker emerges as being part of an underground Internet community well versed in decoding and breaking through any kind of Internet code or website. 
According to Raoul Chiesa and Stefania Ducci in their book PROFILING HACKERS the creed is broken down into several sub categories for better understanding. They are: 
*TOOLKIT/NEWBIES: the techno novices that pose little know-how and technical savvy.

*CYBER-PUNKS: capable of some programming writing skills that may be used for defacing websites and robbing credit card numbers while also spamming.

*INTERNALS: used within corporations to solve complex computer codes and problems.

*CODERS:  Designers of codes that can write them to destroy Internet entities.

*OLD GUARD HACKERS:   Their interest lies in intellectual and cognitive sides of hacking.  They’re mostly from the school of the original hackers and usually don’t seek to destroy but mainly base their craft on curiosity.

*PROFESSIONAL CRIMINALS AND CYBER TERRORISTS:  This grouping usually is the most dangerous and can be seen breaking into government high security agencies while reeking havoc on many government military installations.
Hackers are also usually profiled in unique ways that better identify them to law enforcement agencies and Internet watchdog groups.  They primarily go by a set of motivational characteristics that include:  1) a dependency and compulsive need to hack.  2) Curiosity as to what can be found on the Net.  3) Boredom of offline life and going for the adrenaline rush they achieve by conducting illicit activity.  4) Seeking highs from hacking into government agencies, bank and many other institutional organizations.  5)  Peer group recognition with acceptance in their hacking community and advancement in their hierarchy.  Finally, 6) achieving a certain type of pride and generosity by finding holes and uncovering them in more secure systems.  Much of what is mentioned above was originally discovered and studied by the HPP-Hackers Profiling Project which began between 2003 and 2004.  Much of this study was instituted by the UNICRI-United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute. (http://www.unicri.it).   More and more the political activists motto that was followed so closely by the Hippy movements of the 1960’s have found their ways into the profiling of modern day hackers who at some later time evolve into what we might now label as hacktavists dedicated on using their skills to communicate a political message or gain some kind of social goal within our world.   Over the years we have seen this evolution take shape as the more intense and grand acts of cyber hacking and cyber terrorism become more socially motivated.  The extended version of hacker identities have also been broken down into three groupings as well known as:  1) White hats-those who hack for what they believe are good causes, 2) Black hats-Those who hack for shear havoc and chaos motivated reasons and 3)The Gray Hats which combine their motivations for hacking for both good and bad reasons.

According to the New York Times (Thursday, December 6th, 2012; Section B) there is yet a newer wave of hacker that has been associated with the hacktivist group Anonymous seeking to wreak havoc through a lucrative online crime called RANSOM-WARE.  Here the hackers have found ways to break into a person’s computer online leaving a message that they have caused a DDoS or Distributed Denial of Service within a computer usually leaving a ransom message demanding that the computer owner send a particular amount of money to an online address in order to continue use of their computers.  This Ransom ware stops a person from using their system and prevents them from being able to access valuable software and programs while online. The hostage is your PC and the hackers have developed savvy ways to take control of your computer causing the owner to seek out technicians that must completely wipe away the contents of a hard drive and sometimes cause the loss of valuable information.  This has been the latest rash of terroristic attacks taking place over the Internet with many victims falling prey right here in the United States.  This form of Ransomware has been attributed towards one of the largest and most politically hacktivistic lurkers on the Internet.  They call themselves ANONYMOUS and ride again with the mantra motto:
“We are Anonymous.
We are Legion.
We do not forgive.
We do not forget.
Expect us.”-

According to Andy Greenberg author of THIS MACHINE KILLS SECRETS, defining the Anonymous hacktavists is as follows:  “They are more than a traditional organization, it functions as a loosely organized movement, or even an elaborate participatory memes (a catchphrase or image that has become inadvertently popular, thanks to the viral quality of the Internet, and whose meaning is typically lost on mainstream Web users.  Often serving as in jokes for Anonymous supporters, many memes, computer games originate from discussions on bulletin boards and cyber chat rooms.)”    Those who took part in the groups and anyone called Anonymous joined in crowd-sourced swarm attacks on whatever target offended its values, tenets like freedom of speech and anti corporation values. 

Some of the victims over the years since the movement emerged have included Tea Party and its billionaire corporate supporters, the Koch brothers, the anti–homosexual extremist Westboro Baptist Church, Sony Corporation, Mastercard and Paypal. The group has gone as far as to attack the Church of Scientology which they believed was bullying a smaller entity or acting with corrupt impunity.  The Anon (Anonymous) attacks have gone so far as to “flood their victims servers with fraudulent data requests that paralyzed the machines like flies choking the mouth and nostrils of a Goliath elephant”, according to Greenberg. 

The HPP of most Anonymous members appears to be revealed as young teens some as young as fifteen years old.  Police have attempted to squelch these individuals only to be greeted by Anon to recruit more and harden the groups culture of strong anonymity.  According to Greenberg Anonymous relays the activist cry, “Anonymous wants you…Get your ass behind a proxy and join the raid.”

Specific raids on the Church of Scientology have gone on to warn: “Hello Scientology.  We are Anonymous.  Over the years, we have been watching you. Your campaigns of misinformation, suppression of dissent, your litigious nature, all of these things have caught our eyes….Anonymous has therefore decided that your organization should be destroyed.  For the good of your followers, for the good of mankind—for the laughs—we shall expel you from the Internet and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form”….”Knowledge is free…We are Anonymous.  We are Legion…We do not forgive…We do not forget…Expect Us.” Furthermore many of the members of Anonymous carry themselves with the trade mark of the Guy Fawkes mask that was so adorned in the motion picture “V for Vendetta”, produced by Uber producer Joel Silver and his company Silver Pictures through Warner Brothers.  This mask has been carried and seen at many rallies of protest including the Occupy Wall Street Movement that took place in cities most recently nationwide.  The reference to Guy Fawkes is interesting as it refers to the radical anarchist that was put to death on November 5th for his acts against government. Anonymous has somehow grabbed onto this trademark to help them identify themselves to the larger masses of Internet users and establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with online.  The movement of Anonymous has been systematic while they fiercely guard their names and identities openly congregating in online chat rooms and crowd sourced documents that use pseudonyms.

While it is obvious that hackers sometimes do their mischief just for the thrill and excitement of the act, Anonymous attacks can be observed as having specifically political motivation taking hacking to an entirely new level in an attempt to make what they call greater change and protect our freedoms over the Internet. Whether you believe this mantra motto or mission statement the obvious still is relevant in the listing of attacks that have taken place over the internet by Anonymous.  Here are just a select listing of specifically motivated attacks that Anon has taken responsibility:
 (Courtesy of Parmy Olson’s WE ARE ANONYMOUS, Little Brown and Company, NewYork, 2012):
*Habbo Raids-this amusement site was hacked by Anonymous due to the fact that they barred a two year old toddler affected by AIDS from entering their parks or swimming pool.  Their site as taken over and plastered with Internet slang while flooding the site.
*Hal Turner raid:  White supremacist Hal Turner had his website hacked and was forced to pay thousands of dollars in bandwidth bills due to it.  He attempted to sue for his bills but the case eventually ran out of steam in court.  No legal action prevailed.
*Sarah Palin Email Attack:  September of 2008 saw to the hacking of Sarah Palin’s website by well known Anonymous member Rubico.  His attempts to invade Ms. Palin’s email account turned out to be frivolous in trying to find incriminating information that she might have passed on during her political career.  Her passwords and email information were revealed publically on various websites worldwide.
*No Cussing Club Invasion-January 2009 saw to it in attacking the website of the No Cussing Club in California run by teen McKay Hatch, a website against profanity. Hatch’s home address, phone numbers and other personal information were disclosed over the internet along with a series of hate mails and obscene phone calls that were made to the homes of members.  Also, bogus pizza and pornography deliveries were made using members credit card numbers.
*Iranian Protests Against the Current Elections:  Anonymous launches an Iranian Greet Movement  Support site with the help of Pirate Bay and other Iranian hackers to protest the rigging of elections of Iranian presidential candidates.  Thousands of protestors took to the streets as the Iranian government attempted to censor news about the riots over the Internet.
*Zimbabwe Attacks:  Website of the government of Zimbabwe were systematically attacked by anonymous and flooded with spam, flames and other information to jam their site in protest of censorship due to Wiki Leaks documents.
*Attacks on Fine Gael Website:  Anonymous systematically attacks the Irish political parties website Fine Gael, a labor party group in Ireland replacing many of their pages with text that reads: “Nothing is safe; you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you.  They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice.  WAKE UP!”
*Arab Spring Activites:  Many sites were hacked and defaced during the Arab Spring movement as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Middle Eastern governmental websites were singled out.  Many of these attacks coincided with what was happening in Egypt as many demonstrators utilized Facebook to organize and rally.  Tunisian government officials attempted to respond by arresting online activists and bloggers within their country while questioning the attacks.  The retaliation effected Anonymous directly as their website was placed into DDoS around January 5th of last year. *Occupy Wall Street:  Many Guy Fawkes masks were observed during the Occupy Wall Street movement rallies that occurred worldwide in many countries.  The masked protestors use of these masks were a clear message that they had connections to Anonymous and were involved with illicit hacking activity during the course of the movement. 

The continued hacking attacks by Anonymous have once again proven that the hacktivist movement worldwide over the internet has greatly evolved from a small group of techno savvy computer users that have just been using their skills for kicks not really attempting to cause much harm and doing most of their mischief for the sensation of the hack while acting out as a band of vandalizing youth.  Hacktivism and the Anonymous movement have evolved into a lethal and very threatening force over the Internet evolving into a movement beyond the scope of just hackers. Anonymous clearly has patterns and select motives for their attacks and has taken hacking intoan entirely new level using their skills the same way the Hippie Movement of thesixties used demonstrations and riots to protest the war and other political decision making that occurs inside large government and bureaucratic organizations.

We have seen since the 1950’s and beyond a movement of protestors that can now take their politically motivated mischief to an entirely new level hoping to make change. In some ways by doing this online, the risk to human life similar to what happened during the sixties movements occurs less but there are much greater financial and technical consequences that take place due to the work of Anonymous and its band of computer pirates.  Most of what Anonymous and many of the hactivists protest are in response to groups that are looking to censor and prohibit certain freedoms over the Internet.  In some ways this might lead to more positive and less restrictive attempts by governments to control the internet and prevent freedoms of speech. Either way you look at it, there must be some sense of observation that Anonymous and Internet hackers hold a particular space….a particular function and role over the world wide web in helping to control and keep the web safe for some of the billions of users that have taken their campaigns to the bandwidth hoping to muster up change through global dissemination of information that the Internet provides to us all. Are the arrests of these individuals a test of how free the internet remains or are they signs that the Internet may be eventually controlled by governments and politically minded bureaucrats?  These are questions that will continue to arise as we evolve over the Internet as a better educated and closer knit global village takes its course online. Hackers, hacktivists and Anonymous play a large role in helping us protect some of the freedoms we've learned to nurture online and in some ways take on a Guardian Angel role to the online community.  Either way they have become the new Robin Hoods of a vast movement that has evolved online and effectively learned how to use their skills to help rob from the rich and give to the poor-in some cases using their political viewpoints to help guide any kind of restrictions to our web browsing freedoms.  Until there is some kind of larger entity out there to help retain these freedoms, Anonymous and online hacktivists are the new and subtle voices of our freedoms to speak without being censored.  Good or bad, they are everywhere.

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  1. I never saw them as the Robin Hood's of the internet, thats a creative metaphor that truly works on describing them. I remember when they hacked into the PS3 network and simply told Sony you guys are far to easy to hack you should change your system. They didn't steal money from any accounts even though Sony carefully locked all the accounts.

  2. Interesting paper. It’s crazy to find out that hackers actually have a prototype. And the characteristics that define them are interesting yet disturbing. You wrote “While it is obvious that hackers sometimes do their mischief just for the thrill and excitement of the act, Anonymous attacks can be observed as having specifically political motivation taking hacking to an entirely new level in an attempt to make what they call greater change and protect our freedoms over the Internet.” That’s crazy but believable, there always seems to be a valid reason behind these actions.