I went to see a screening of a new film about Anonymous last night called We Are Legion: the Story of the Hacktivists.
The film tells the story about the rise of Anonymous and the hacktivism movement, portrayed through interviews with many of the key players.
The film includes some of my favourite discussion areas, such as the fall of HBGary and Aaron Barr (who appears in the movie looking dreadful) and the rise of the Occupy Movement, as well as some areas I haven’t covered in depth here, such as the CULT OF THE DEAD COW, the Long Cat and the Scientology versus 4Chan war. The latter wouldn’t sit on the Finanser blog as they were not targeting financial markets, although they do serve to lay down much of the chronology of where Anonymous and Occupy came from.
The film defends the movement as a pure online ‘sit-in’ that poses no real threat to business or governments. It portrays the potential fines of the “PayPal14” – the fourteen people who have been arrested for participating in the ‘sit-in’ against PayPal, Visa and MasterCard after they were aligned against Wikileaks – as being extreme. A $250,000 fine with the threat of a 15 year jail sentence is the ultimate penalty these demonstrators face, which is a harsher full sentence than a paedophile receives (maximum 12 years).
The director, Brian Knappenberger, and his interviewees believe that online activism is no different to physical activism, and that a demonstration on the street is just the same as a denial of service attack.
The film claims that anonymous and its equivalents pose little threat therefore - it is just peaceful demonstration - and that the threats of Duqu, Flame, Stuxnet and their equivalents are far worse.
If anything, the film has one slight weakness in that it does not include any view on where this movement might move in the future. In fact, the director lets the players in the anonymous movement tell their story with no judgements, apart from those made in the edit suite.
Nevertheless, it has received multiple selections for the world’s top documentary festivals
And, to make up for this shortfall, I will blog tomorrow about where anonymous and hacktivism could go in the future.
Meanwhile, in the interests of completing the Uprising journey, let’s look at the history of the hacktivism movement and where it sits today as portrayed through the eyes of Mr. Knappenberger.
This is an edited and shortened version of the History of Hactivism from the We Are Legion Documentary website:
September 1946: The Tech Model Railroad Club
The Tech Model Railroad Club is founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1946. The word “hack” was originally used at MIT to describe elaborate college pranks. As used by the TMRC, the word was also understood to mean a feat “imbued with innovation, style, and technical virtuosity.” (Steven Levy, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution.)
October 1971: The “Phreaker”
Ron Rosenbaum gains public attention with his article in Esquire called “Secrets of the Little Blue Box” where he coins the term “phreaker” to describe technologists manipulating the phone system.
November 1971: Jobs and Wozniak make a Blue Box
Steve Jobs and Steve ‘Woz’ Wozniak build “blue boxes,” illegal electronic devices used to generate the tones telephone networks once used to switch long distance calls. The two sell the boxes to students eager to get free long distance, and Wozniak reportedly once uses one to call the Vatican while posing as Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
September 12, 1981: Chaos Computer Club
Chaos Computer Club forms in Berlin, Germany. Recognizing “currently emerging electronic data networks,” the CCC wants to use them creatively with a belief that governments should operate transparently and that information should be free. The CCC has become one of the world’s biggest hacker organizations.
1984: CULT OF THE DEAD COW
CULT OF THE DEAD COW (cDc) forms in Lubbock, Texas. The group had a stated goal of “Global Domination Through Media Saturation” and would later, among other actions, declare war on the Church of Scientology in 1995.
January 12, 1984: 2600
2600: Magazine gets its start. The name refers to the phreaker discovery that the transmission of a 2600 hertz tone over a long-distance connection gains access to “operator mode” of the telephone system.
October 16, 1989: Political Computer Worm
WANK, a computer worm allegedly created by two hackers in the U.S., attacks a computer network shared by NASA and the US Department of Energy in protest of US nuclear policies.
July 10, 1990: EFF Begins
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is formed. Consisting of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists it calls itself the first line of defense “when our freedoms in the networked world come under attack.”
November 5, 1994: The Zippies
An electronic civil disobedience collective action called “The Intervasion of the UK” was carried out by a group called the Zippies to protest a proposed law that would outlaw outdoor music festivals. On Guy Fawkes Day, the group launches a denial of service attack - in this case an “ebomb” - against the UK government website, which succeeds at shutting it down for at least a week. The action is regarded as the first time a denial of service attack was used as a form of civil disobedience.
December 21, 1995: Net’Strike
The Strano Network stages a one-hour Net’Strike to shut down various French government websites in opposition to the country’s nuclear and social policies. Strano Network’s Net’Strike is considered one of the earliest documented hacktivist protests.
CULT OF THE DEAD COW member Omega coins the term “hacktivism” - loosely defined as the use of hacking as a form of political protest, subverting government surveillance of repressive regimes and the ideal that access to information is a basic human right.
1997: Electronic Disturbance Theater
The Electronic Disturbance Theater forms in New York. Using the Mosaic browser the group begins to experiment with Denial of Service as a form of “virtual sit-in.”
1998: The “Virtual Sit-In”
Electronic Disturbance Theater conducts “virtual sit-ins” on the websites of the Pentagon and the Mexican government bringing attention to the massacre of a group of indigenous people by paramilitary forces in Chiapas, Mexico.
May 19, 1998: The L0pht says they can shut down the entire internet in 30 minutes
Testifying before congress using their hacker names, members of the L0pht “hackers think tank” say they could shut down the internet in 30 minutes.
August 1998: Back Orifice Debuts
CULT OF THE DEAD COW releases “Back Orifice,” a free download that allows users to hack and control computers remotely using the Windows operating system.
March 2001: The Injustice Virus
Pro-Palestinian hackers release the “Injustice worm.” The virus steals email addresses from Microsoft Outlook and uses them to send out a political message about the killing of a Palestinian girl by Israeli soldiers.
June 20, 2001: Lufthansa Airlines Website Hit
German activists organize a virtual sit-in on the website of Lufthansa Airlines, after its planes are used to deport undocumented immigrants out of Germany.
September 20, 2002: Tor
The online anonymity system Tor is released. Tor conceals a user’s location from surveillance or analysis by directing internet traffic through a network of servers.
October 2003: 4chan Launched
Christopher “moot” Poole launches 4chan. The site’s /b/ board is considered the birthplace of Anonymous.
July 12, 2006: The Habbo Hotel Raid
/b/ users flock to Habbo Hotel using hundreds of avatars with large afros and gray suits. They disrupt the game and - most infuriating to users - block the entrance to the pool.
October 4, 2006: Wikileaks launched
Wikileaks, the publisher of private or classified material from leaks, anonymous news sources and whistleblowers begins operations.
December 2006: Hal Turner
Users of /b/ DDoS the website of conservative shock jock and white nationalist Hal Turner and publish his and his parents’ home phone numbers. Members of /b/ also send pizzas, industrial materials and escorts from Craigslist to his house.
January 10, 2008: Hal Turner calls it quits
Hal Turner says he is quitting his radio show and separating from the “pro-white” movement after hackers claim to have uncovered emails suggesting that he was working with the FBI. The FBI declined to comment on its involvement with Turner. Turner is later jailed for inciting injury and threatening judges of the United States Court of Appeals.
January 14, 2008: Tom Cruise Video
A video interview with Tom Cruise produced by the Church of Scientology is leaked on YouTube. Claiming copyright infringement, Scientology demands the video be taken down.
January 21, 2008: Project Chanology
Anonymous launches Project Chanology via a YouTube video titled “Message to Scientology.” The group vows to “expel” the Church from the Internet, “and systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.”
January 26, 2008: Chanology Expands
Anonymous releases a second video message on YouTube calling for worldwide protests outside of Scientology centers on February 10, 2008.
February 10, 2008: Worldwide Scientology Protests
Approximately 7,000 people in 100 cities demonstrate in front of Church of Scientology centers worldwide. Many don Guy Fawkes masks inspired by the graphic novel and film “V for Vendetta” in order to conceal their identities.
April 18, 2009: Telecomix is founded
Telecomix is founded on the day the FRA law, which allows the Swedish government to warrantlessly wiretap all telephone and Internet traffic that crosses Sweden’s borders, is passed by Parliament. The decentralized cluster of hacktivists is committed to freedom of expression.
April 5, 2010: Collateral Murder Video
Wikileaks releases the “Collateral Murder Video” which shows a U.S. Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 opening fire on a group of men. Among the dead were two Reuters News employees.
July 25, 2010: Afghan War Diary
The Afghan War Diary is released by Wikileaks.
November 28, 2010: Cablegate
Wikileaks releases 251,287 classified diplomatic cables from the U.S. State Department. The cables contain analysis from world leaders, and diplomats’ assessment of host countries and their officials. To date, this is the world’s largest release of classified material.
December 3, 2010: PayPal Blog Hit
Anonymous send out a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoSes) attack on PayPal’s blog, after the online payment giant says it ceased processing donations made to WikiLeaks.
December 8, 2010: Operation Payback Targets Paypal and Major Credit Card Companies
Paypal.com, MasterCard.com and Visa.com are taken offline temporarily for cutting off funding services for WikiLeaks.
January 2, 2011: Anonymous Targets Tunisa
Anonymous launches a DDoS attack on Tunisian government websites in support of Arab Spring protestors.
January 5, 2011: Thank you, Anonymous
Tunisians living in Germany thank Anonymous for taking down various Tunisian government websites.
January 20, 2011: Care Packages for Egyptian Protestors
Telecomix & Anonymous reach out to aide Egyptian Protesters. A 160-page manual on how to circumvent online censorship and a “care package” that contains instructions on how to deal with tear gas is translated into Arabic and sent to Arab Spring demonstrators.
January 27, 2011: Operation Payback Arrests
Five men are arrested in England in connection with Operation Payback. Following the arrests in England, the FBI obtains more than 40 search warrants and raids the homes of suspected participants involved in Operation Payback, in the U.S.
February 2, 2011: Egyptian Government Website Shut Down
In support of the Arab Spring protests, Anonymous shuts down Egypt’s official government website.
February 5, 2011: HBGary
HBGary Federal, a computer security firm is hacked after CEO, Aaron Barr claims he has unmasked the identities of the core members of Anonymous. On February 7, 2011, over 40,000 internal emails are leaked as a result of the breach.
March 14, 2011: Bank of America
Anonymous leaks a series of email correspondence between employees at Balboa Insurance, a bank owned by Bank of America until 2011, to expose corrupt lending practices. The emails center on requests to delete reference numbers from specific loan documents in order to make them untraceable.
April 2011: The Birth of LulzSec
Two hackers associated with Anonymous, Topiary and Sabu, break away from the collective, recruiting Tflow, Kayla, Pwnsauce and Anonymous supporter avunit to form Lulz Security or LulzSec.
May 6, 2011: X-Factor
LulzSec leaks the personal information of the contestants on the UK television show “The X-Factor”.
May 15, 2011: U.K. ATMs Hack
LulzSec releases the locations, ID numbers, and owner information of thousands of ATMs in England.
June 5, 2011: Government email addresses leaked in Middle East
In support of protesters in the Middle East, Anonymous dumps hundreds of email addresses and passwords that belong to government officials in Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan.
June 7, 2011: Sabu arrested
Unemployed 28-year-old Hector Monsegur and alleged LulzSec leader “Sabu” is arrested in the Jacob Riis housing complex in New York. Monsegur agrees to become an informant for the FBI while continuing to lead LulzSec.
June 13, 2011: Senate website hit
LulzSec hacks Senate.gov and the pilfers data online. “We don’t like the US government very much,” their Twitter feed says. “Their sites aren’t very secure.”
June 15, 2011: LulzSec takes down CIA.gov
LulzSec launches DDoS attacks on the CIA’s website.
June 16, 2011: Random email dump
LulzSec leaks 62,000 email address and password combinations for no apparent reason. It also doesn’t say where they got the information, or how. In a tweet, LulzSec urges its followers to use the information to break into Facebook, Twitter, World of Warcraft, and other sites.
June 20, 2011: LulzSec turns to the UK
AntiSec shuts down the website of The Serious Organised Crime Agency, an elite law enforcement unit in the U.K., marking the first time LulzSec has gone after a British law enforcement agency.
June 21, 2011: Alleged LulzSec member arrest
Scotland Yard arrests 19-year-old Ryan Cleary, an alleged member of LulzSec, in Essex, England. LulzSec denies Cleary’s involvement.
June 25, 2011: LulzSec calls it quits
LulzSec announces the end of their famed 50-day run, releasing a statement saying that they have accomplished their mission to disrupt corporate and government bodies. “Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance, leaving behind - we hope - inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love,” the statement says.
July 11, 2011: Military email addresses released
Military consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton is hit with a data breach that leads to a data dump of 90,000 email addresses belonging to military personnel. AntiSec, another Anonymous offshoot, claims responsibility.
July 13, 2011: Adbusters original Occupy call to action
Sighting the success of Tahrir (the Arab Spring), #occupywallstreet reaches out to “90,000 redeemers, rebels and radicals”. “On September 17, we want to see 20,000 people flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and occupy Wall Street for a few months. Once there, we shall incessantly repeat one simple demand in a plurality of voices.”
July 19, 2011: PayPal 14 arrests
The FBI arrests the so-called “PayPal 14,” reputed Anonymous members that allegedly launched a DDoS attack against PayPal, after the online payment servicing company, along with Visa and MasterCard, stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks. In this clip from We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists, Attorney Stanley Cohen talks about DDoS as a means of protest.
July 19, 2011: “Anonymous 16” Arrested
The U.S. Department of justice announces that sixteen people allegedly associated with Anonymous were arrested for PayPal DDoS and other attacks.
July 27, 2011: Alleged LulzSec member ‘Topiary’ arrested
British police in the Shetland Islands arrest Jake Davis, an 18-year-old hacker and alleged LulzSec member Topiary.
August 23, 2011: Anon aligns with Occupy
Anonymous releases a video in support of Occupy Wall Street and joins the September 17th occupation organized by Adbusters Magazine.
September 17, 2011: Occupy Wall Street Begins
Occupy Wall Street begins in Zucotti Park in New York City’s Wall Street Financial district
February 3, 2012: Scotland Yard-FBI phone call intercepted and released
Anonymous posts a 16-minute recording of a phone call between the FBI, Scotland Yard and other foreign law enforcement agencies discussing their investigation into the hacktivist collective.
February 3, 2012: Occupy Boston Police Department takedown
In response to Boston police’s treatment of Occupy protesters, Anonymous takes down the website of the Boston Police Department.
February 5, 2012: Syrian anons dump government emails on Wikileaks
A Syrian offshoot of Anonymous hacks into numerous servers and web domains in the country, stealing over 2 million email addresses that belong to government officials and contractors. The data is then given to WikiLeaks, which publishes it in July.
February 29, 2012: Interpol site down
Anonymous brings down the Interpol’s website, after the law enforcement agency announces the arrests of 25 suspected Anonymous members.
March 6, 2012: Sabu Outed as FBI Informant
News breaks that Hector “Sabu” Monsegur, the alleged leader of LulzSec, has been acting as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
March 7, 2012: Vatican hack
Anonymous’ Italian faction takes down Vatican’s website with a DDoS attack, in protest of the church’s handling of the sex abuse scandals, its teachings on birth control, as well as its burnings of heretics during the Inquisitions.
March 30, 2012: @AnonymousChina
In a week-long spree, Anonymous’ China branch shuts down and defaces close to 500 government, company, and other miscellaneous websites. Email addresses and phone numbers of Chinese government officials are also leaked.
April 7, 2012: Anons attack .gov.uk sites
Anonymous shuts down multiple UK government websites with DDoS attacks, in opposition to the country’s proposal to monitor all web and phone traffic.
May 9, 2012: Putin protests
Anonymous disables websites of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin, in support of the massive street protests in the country against Putin’s third term as president.
June 14, 2012:Oil companies email attack
In Operation Save the Artic, Anonymous steals email information from the websites of Shell, Exxon, BP, and Russian oil firms Gazprom and Rosneft to protest oil drilling in the Arctic.
To keep up with these developments and more, please check back with the Timeline at the We Are Legion Documentary website.
This is the second entry in a series about Hacktivism:
- Part One, The uprising
- Part Two, We are Legion: the History of Hacktivism
- Part Three, The Future of Hacktivism: the Collective Party
- Part Four, Cyberwars: a far bigger threat than hacktivists
- Part Five, So how should a bank protect itself from hacktivists and cybercrime?