In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, the familiar Anonymous caricature of Guy Fawkes has reappeared—multiple times, according to the hacktivist group. But is Anonymous back? And if so, how has it changed from its heyday a decade ago?
On May 28, Anonymous posted a video explaining that it would be targeting police departments across the United States. “We will be exposing your many crimes to the world,” the computerized narrator said.
Two high-profile incidents followed. The group claimed responsibility on May 30 for taking down the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) website, breaching a police department database, and leaking 798 emails and passwords. Security researcher Troy Hunt, known for his HaveIBeenPwned service, which tracks and analyzes data breaches, says this data breach was highly unlikely to have come from the MPD.
Anonymous also claimed responsibility on June 3 for convincing Korean pop music fans to hijack pro-police and white supremacist Twitter hashtags in support of Black Lives Matter. K-pop superfans also took down a Dallas police department app for reporting allegedly illegal activity by flooding it with K-pop fan videos.
Hijacking hashtags and DDOSing local police apps and websites are a far cry from the days when Anonymous’ attacks had governments and corporations around the world concerned that their websites and databases would be its next targets.
A Europe-based organizer with Anonymous for more than a decade says Anonymous never went away. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the person wrote in a series of text messages that Anonymous is still made up of multiple groups, some with different and potentially even clashing agendas. But one defining characteristic of some of the earlier Anonymous actions was technical skill, and that’s missing from current Anonymous groups.
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“I have not seen anything indicating real hacking. If it happens, they are smart enough to not do it publicly,” wrote the Anonymous organizer. “Currently, the theme is to disrupt communication of the right-wing scene, take over their hashtags, make social media unusable for them. You don’t need hacking for that.”
While the current Anonymous isn’t the same as the older Anonymous, that’s actually part of what Anonymous is: an umbrella brand made up of many groups, consistent in their adaptability, their desire to foment and encourage social action, and their use of the Guy Fawkes mask as depicted in the anarchist-vs.-authoritarian comic book “V for Vendetta.” These latest Anonymous actions are unsurprising, given the state of turmoil the world is in; who is behind the mask often depends on what cause they’re hacking for.
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