Anonymous, the anonymous hacktivist group, poses a very difficult question: at what point does illegal activity for a cause in which we believe cease to be unacceptable and start to be heroic (and vice versa, of course)?
Anonymous is the group that has claimed responsibility for the ‘retaliatory’ DDoS attacks against companies such as MasterCard, Visa and PayPal for withdrawing support for WikiLeaks. But is also the group that has targeted both the Zimbabwean and Tunisian governments:
“We are targeting Mugabe and his regime in the Zanu-PF who have outlawed the free press and threaten to sue anyone publishing Wikileaks,” the group said at the time.
BBC News: 4 Jan 2011
Anonymous, the loosely-organized band of hacker activists and vigilantes, has chosen its next victim: The government of Tunisia. (They’ve taken down its official website.) Why? In part, because it tried to block access to secret-sharing website Wikileaks.
Gawker: 3 Jan 2011
By 10 Jan, elements within Anonymous had begun to provide support to Tunisians who might be under threat from a repressive government:
In an effort to support a restriction-free Internet in Tunisia, members of Anonymous have gathered to promote links to what they’re calling a care package for Tunisian protestors. In it, they have included how-to guides for a number of things including homemade gas masks. In addition, they are circulating information on TOR usage, links to Tunisian proxies, instructions for LiveCD usage, and a book titled Bypassing Internet Censorship.
The Tech Herald: 10 Jan 2011
So the question is this: are the members of Anonymous freedom fighters or cyberterrorists?
Yesterday, the UK Metropolitan Police announced that five people had been arrested:
The arrests are in relation to recent and ongoing ‘distributed denial of service’ attacks (DDoS) by an online group calling themselves ‘Anonymous’.
They are part of an ongoing MPS investigation in to Anonymous which began last year following criminal allegations of DDoS attacks by the group against several companies.
This investigation is being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US.
But are these people heroes for defending the freedom of the press in repressive states like Zimbabwe and Tunisia, or are they cyber-terrorists for attacking companies like MasterCard and Visa?
Claire Sellick, Event Director for Infosecurity Europe, has no doubts. “Whilst the Anonymous group has received a lot of positive attention, most recently in the toppling of the government in Tunisia, the reality of a DDoS attack on a commercial organisation is that it paralyses that firm’s Web site and, in many cases, costs them money – both directly and indirectly,” she said.
“And whilst those staging the DDoS attacks may feel they are carrying out their acts of cybervandalism with good intentions, the reality is that a team of IT professionals has to sort out the mess behind the scenes,” she added.
I am not at all so certain. I am not willing to say that I will do whatever ‘the Law’ tells me to do just because it tells me to do it. Recent European history demonstrates that there is no objectivity to this approach. The same people who were doing what they had to do by virtue of their national law, were later executed as war criminals. The judgment over what is ‘right’ is a personal one; and I insist on the right – even duty – to ignore the law if it is morally repugnant to me.
So, was Anonymous right in attacking MasterCard, Visa and PayPal? Frankly, I don’t know. But MasterCard, Visa and PayPal were most definitely wrong to withdraw their services from WikiLeaks.
If there is one journalist I trust above all others, it is John Pilger. If there is one journalist in whom I believe above all others, it is John Pilger. So when he writes:
In recent weeks, the US Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Julian Assange under a discredited espionage act used to arrest peace activists during the first world war, or one of the “war on terror” conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a “deliberate set up”, pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and other pillars of American power.
then I start to get worried. This is not some tabloid guttersnipe journo seeking to gain reputation through sensationalism. This is John Pilger. So believe it. And be worried.
Crushing individuals like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning is not difficult for a great power, however craven. The point is, we should not allow it to happen, which means those of us meant to keep the record straight should not collaborate in any way. Transparency and information, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, are the “currency” of democratic freedom. “Every news organisation,” a leading American constitutional lawyer told me, “should recognise that Julian Assange is one of them, and that his prosecution will have a huge and chilling effect on journalism”.
Read the full article and weep for the world we believe in. It doesn’t exist. It probably never existed. But that doesn’t mean we should ever cease fighting for it.
It is one of those sad facts that the parliamentarian in opposition accepts and even revels in being a servant of the people; but the same parliamentarian in government suddenly considers himself a master of those very same people.
So it has proven with the UK’s Coalition Government. The Big Society only exists when society agrees with our masters. Otherwise government reverts to the Big Government that knows what we want, even though we haven’t realised it, and insists that we have it for our own good.
So it is with our forests. Note that. Our forests. Not theirs. Ours. They want to sell our forests. We don’t want them to. They are not theirs to sell. They are ours. They belong to the people.
At the time of writing this, 246,959 people have signed the petition at Save Our Forests. That’s a hell of a lot of people who have found the petition and bothered to sign it.
The people have spoken. Back off. Cameron, Clegg, lose that arrogance and listen to the people you serve.