A Look at Key Hacktivist Events from Anonymous

November 14, 2012

The hacktivist group Anonymous has been responsible for many online attacks, but its influence is declining. Too many uncoordinated and unclear operations have been detrimental to its reputation, and it has been the target of law enforcement operations, with 25 suspected members arrested Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Spain.

The group is spreading disinformation, making false claims, and is involved in hacking, factors that McAfee Labs researchers predict will make the movement less politically visible. Anonymous’ success will also decline as its technical expertise stagnates — although there may be some short-lived spectacular actions involving hacktivists and antiglobalization supporters, or hacktivists and ecoterrorists.

McAfee Labs researchers noted the following Anonymous events in the third quarter of 2012:

  • Anonymous supporters announced the results of their operation #OpSaveTheArctic — Phase II. They posted email addresses and corresponding passwords from various oil companies, including Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Gazprom, and Rosneft on Pastebin.

  • After urging the United Kingdom’s government to allow WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to go to Ecuador, Anonymous launched various distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against several United Kingdom government websites, followed by more attacks against Swedish government and media websites.

The Anonymous movement also tried its hand at spreading disinformation:

  • AntiSec (a hacktivist group that is part of Anonymous) claimed to have stolen 12 million Apple device identifiers from the computer of an FBI agent. In fact, this data actually came from the app-publishing company BlueToad.

  • GoDaddy was unable to provide service for millions of websites hosted on its servers. At first, a tweet from @Anonymous Own3r claimed responsibility for the attack. Later it was disclosed that the failure was caused by a series of internal network events that corrupted router data tables. Also, a purported “leaked database” was posted online. Twitter users pointed out that the data was fake, taken from an open-source project dating to 2010.

Although Anonymous claims to love the truth, McAfee Labs recommends greeting its announcements with some skepticism.