Jeffrey Carr tweeted about my blog on Akamai and Anonymous (Anonymous and the ‘threat’ against Akamai and Josh Corman).
Interesting to say the least.
But before saying anything else, I should stress that I am taking this tweet and the TechWeekEurope report on Josh Corman’s RSA 2012 comments at face value. I cannot personally corroborate either.
Firstly, the idea that being ‘kind’ yesterday should excuse being ‘unkind’ today seems strange. Corman’s latest reported comments are not capable of being misconstrued:
Anonymous has very few hackers, it has very few activists… It is very misleading to call the groups hacktivists. The common attribute is angst. The talented ones are either quitting or starting to do things that are more clandestine.
If accurate, the purpose of these sentiments can only be to belittle and perhaps ridicule Anonymous. The reality is, ridicule and disinformation are Authority’s most effective weapons against Anonymous. This explains why Anonymous questioned his motives.
But this is not what intrigues me most about Carr’s tweet. It is the comment, “trying to help Anonymous become a more effective org”. It is a fundamental contradiction in terms that displays a basic misunderstanding of Anonymous. In fact, I would go further. If someone really does understand Anonymous and tries to help it become a more effective organization, then that person has an ulterior motive and is actually trying to weaken Anonymous.
Anonymous is not an organization. Its strength is that it is not an organization. In fact I suggest that its survival depends upon it never becoming an organization. Organizations have structures. Structures have hierarchies. Hierarchies have heads – and heads can be beheaded.
Think of LulzSec. It was taken apart because it had at least a nominal head in Sabu. By first taking Sabu, the FBI was able to destroy LulzSec. It also explains why the US is expending so much effort on getting Assange – by attacking the structure of Wikileaks it will ultimately destroy Wikileaks. So long as Assange is a primary focal point for Wikileaks, Wikileaks has a weakness. But by having no structure, Anonymous becomes a Hydra.
I don’t know whether any such thinking exists within the Anonymous movement. I suspect the ‘official’ line is that it is governed by its own ‘collective consciousness’. On one level this is a weakness because it allows different factions to act out their own predilections in the name of Anonymous. The collective (not the organization) cannot denounce these acts because it would deny the principle of collective consciousness. As a result, winning the hearts and minds of the unaligned public becomes difficult and highly susceptible to ridicule and accusations of terrorism.
But it does have one huge strength. The mere fact that Anonymous exists is a testament to increasing worldwide discontent with the political and social status quo. As this discontent, illustrated by the Occupy Movement, continues to grow, so Anonymous will continue to strengthen. Becoming ‘organized’ will provide a weakness that the authorities will exploit. So it must continue with its disorganized and decentralised lack of structure. It will make the battle longer; but it is the only way it can win. Organizing itself will destroy itself.
Life is a game of cricket – sometimes you face bouncers, and sometimes beamers; but usually it’s spin and swing. The internet is full of spin and swing, with business, government, law enforcement and hackers all trying to spin the news to their own advantage in order to swing public opinion behind their own position. It’s called disinformation, and everyone’s at it. But like cricket, you only need one ball to spin or swing, and you cannot trust anything ever again.
So with that introductory warning that I really haven’t got a clue, we can ask, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? This is one possibility. It’s all down to TrapWire and the information about TrapWire coming out of the latest WikiLeaks Stratfor emails.
TrapWire seems to be an international surveillance system centred in and run by the US. It makes Cameron’s Communications Bill look pedestrian. That’s not strictly accurate, since the Communications Bill watches people’s cyber movements, while TrapWire watches real world movements; that is, pedestrians (and cars and anything else that moves). It connects the nation’s CCTV surveillance cameras. As an aside, we can be pretty confident that when (not if) the US gets its Cybersecurity Act, that data will be connected to the TrapWire data. What’s more worrying for Brits is that when (not if) Cameron gets his Communications Bill into an Act, that data will also be connected to TrapWire.
This latter is just conjecture, but look at the parallels in UKUSA and do the math. Also consider this from one of the WikiLeaks emails (dated 22 September 2010):
This week, 500 surveillance cameras were activated on the NYC subway system to focus on pre-operational terrorist surveillance. The surveillance technology is also operational on high value targets (HVTs) in DC, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and London and is called TrapWire (www.abraxasapps.com).
So TrapWire was already operational in the UK almost a year ago.
Well, of course I checked on the Abraxas site (a company apparently populated by a high density of ex-CIA staff), but got nowhere.
It’s not just me.
There’s no buzz on the internet (yet at least) that Abraxas has been tangoed down by Anonymous (in retaliation for Antileaks taking out WikiLeaks). So – pure conjecture – they’ve taken it down themselves.
Thank goodness for Google cache (if you’re quick, it might still be there…)
It wouldn’t be surprising if Abraxas has disconnected itself. This TrapWire thing is big, and the Stratfor emails show it’s being used much wider than published. It’s bad enough that the UK government wants to spy on its own citizens (using our taxes to pay for it, of course), but that it has already opened the door to facilitate US government spying on the British people is quite simply obscene. Or, to be British, unacceptable. I can’t begin to think what the American people will make of it.
So, to go back to the original question, what’s going on with WikiLeaks? The obvious conclusion is that it has been taken down (well, effectively blocked) by a continuing DDoS that has been claimed by Antileaks specifically to suppress the emerging information about TrapWire (WikiLeaks is still down as I write this). This is just conjecture on my part; but, well, the dots connect. Under the guise of anti-terrorism western governments will stop at nothing in their determination to have absolute control over us.
By way of introduction I will start by pointing to two stories I did for Infosecurity Magazine. The first is Bieber Hackers and the Anonymous image problem (7 June 2012), in which I argue that Anonymous will lose the battle for hearts and minds because the general public cannot distinguish between the unprincipled hangers-on (like UGNazi) and the politically motivated Anonymous-proper.
The second story was last week: WikiLeaks starts to publish Syrian emails (6 July 2012). This story introduces the Syria Files, the start of WikiLeaks’ publication of 2.4 million Syrian emails; and I mention that I had been told by Anonymous that the documents had come from their OpSyria campaign.
Between these two articles, Anonymous published its own paper called ‘Operation Rebuild the Hive’. It recognizes some of the image problems:
Anonymous has shown its weak point, EACH OTHER. We have let the world see we can be easily deterred from our main goals by simply turning on each other. Not only have long time friends become enemies, but also we have steered possible New Blood from wanting to join. Do not forget where we come from, Do Not forget why we fight, Do not forget the people who we have helped along the lines. We as a collective must Regroup, Rethink our strategies, and REBUILD not only each other, but ourselves.
Operation Rebuild the Hive
How? Well, much is what you would expect. By supporting newcomers and keeping them safe; by loving one another; by discussing new operations and agreeing them before executing them. But there is another theme that runs through the proposals: Anonymous should be Anonymous – full stop. Everyone should change their Twitter display names to Anonymous “so we can all be one, and not just an individual.” Operations and defacements should “Display the name Anonymous, so that we as a hive can stand out and not just a crew.” And, “we move as ONE. Do not let yours or someone else’s ego get in the way of who and what we are.”
If this approach were adopted, then a major structural problem within Anonymous would be eliminated. If UGNazi, or any other crew, wants to call itself UGNazi – or any other name – it is by definition NOT Anonymous.
But then, later in the day of my second article, Anonymous publicly claimed responsibility for the Syria Files. Its announcement starts with a bit of a put down to my little article in Infosecurity: “there seems to be one very obvious question that no one is asking. Where exactly did WikiLeaks get all these E-Mails? This press release is written and addressed to the media and the world to answer this important un-asked question.” Um, er, actually, I did ask…
However, my bruised ego aside, it continues
On February 5, 2012 at approx. 4:00 PM ET USA an Anonymous Op Syria team consisting of elements drawn from Anonymous Syria, AntiSec (now known as the reformed LulzSec) and the Peoples Liberation Front succeeded in creating a massive breach of multiple domains and dozens of servers inside Syria. This team had been working day and night in shifts for weeks to accomplish this feat. So large was the data available to be taken, and so great was the danger of detection (especially for the members of Anonymous Syria, many of whom are “in country”) that the downloading of this data took several additional weeks.
Anonymous Operation Syria – Press Release
This shows that the lesson hinted at in the Rebuild document has not gone home. Anonymous still talks about AntiSec and LulzSec and Anonymous Syria. The problem is that anybody can claim to be AntiSec or LulzSec or Anonymous Isle of Wight. Surely one small start in protecting the Anonymous image would be the elimination of all crews. If some bieber hacking group calling itself Cr3wP01s0n then claims the kudos and protection of acting in the name of Anonymous in taking down some village charity shop, the world would know, this is not Anonymous.
Anonymous still has much to do before it wins the battle for hearts and minds. And it is a battle it must win if it is to succeed. Anonymous must be seen to be what it really is: a force for the people; not a just bunch of script kiddies out for the lulz.