Not meaning to insult your judgement or anything here anonymous but do you really think that President Mugabe cares much that a bunch of western teenagers are attacking his website. It would be like sending a strongly worded letter (written in leetspeak) to Hitler. Mugabe already has a thing about other countries trying to interfere in what he sees as his business, I don’t think this is going to make him think “You know what, those teenagers have shown me that they’re right after all!”. This rather demonstrates the problem with anonymous which is although they sometimes do good things, they aren’t necessarily motivated by common sense and are only too pleased to undermine the potential for any positive effect they may hope to have.
You kind of have to laugh at the idea of them posting “we are anonymous… expect us” on a website belonging to a dictator. There’s a certain amount of cluelessness going on here. Of course back in October I did spend a while reading their IRC channel and there was a certain amount of cluelessness there as well, for a very large value of ‘certain amount’. Yes of course from the outside Anonymous looks dangerous and powerful but in reality only a few of them have any idea what’s going on. Anonymous when judged by the power of their average (mode, I guess) member is pretty rubbish, there just so happen to be a few people on whom the rest are dependent who sufficiently make up for it. Such is my interpretation anyway. During their operation payback at the time of attacks they usually had about 150-250 people in the IRC channel (and you probably have to subtract 10% for interested parties/journalists, etc), which isn’t really that many; I believed at the time and I still believe now that a small minority of them would qualify for the term actual hacker who had their own illicitly created botnets (which is totally not cool) which I suspect did most of the legwork. One or two of them boasted about having such a botnet and the arithmetic doesn’t really add up otherwise. It’s kind of like dark matter. I was somewhat disappointed because by the time I got into their IRC channel some semi mainstream reporting was giving the impression there were thousands of them and the idea that they’d managed to form a several thousand strong cyber-army was kind of intriguing. I was always intrigued as to just how much power they really had. The reality didn’t quite live up to the reporting.
Most of the actual volunteers download a program called the ‘low orbit ion cannon’ which is a friendly GUI application written in C#.NET which spams packets at a server. The fact that a Windows-only GUI application has become iconic of anonymous’s DDoS attacks is an indication of the general technical skill level they most appeal to. In their IRC channel people often used to say things like “my ion cannon’s stopped, what do I do?” [or more like: loics stopped what do i do lol] so I don’t think it’s even a very good program. The fact they managed to hack one of Mugabe’s websites is more an indication of the security knowledge of the average Zimbabwean sysadmin* than it is any great ode to Anonymous’s abilities (probably a trivial SQL injection attack), which seem to be somewhat overstated.
also for more genius insight from the average anonymous member, read anonymoust’s posts on the blog I wrote about Gene Simmons https://laeknishendr.wordpress.com/2010/10/18/gene-simmons-vs-anonymous/
Also, according to Slashdot, 4chan got ddosed a few days ago which was sort of ironic. I don’t know by whom. I don’t know why.
you might notice a change in tone between how I am writing about anonymous now and how I wrote a few months ago. I guess to start with, when they took down ACS:Law’s website and when they attacked Gene Simmons it was all rather entertaining to watch and the general effect was good. I think regardless of the methods involved they actually did some good by drawing news attention to ACS:Law who subsequently received a lot of negative coverage over what they were doing, which educated their targets a little and made it less likely that people would fall victim to them. As a bonus, another law firm (Cramer Pelmont) decided to withdraw from the whole speculative invoicing racket because they saw just how hostile the reaction to ACS:Law was. I can approve of that.
Then there was Gene Simmons, which was pure entertainment seeing two sides trying to out-macho each other. The default position on Gene Simmons vs ANYONE is always to favour ANYONE simply because they’re not Gene Simmons. You have to get quite extreme before this starts to break down. Gene Simmons Vs Mussolini, come on, admit it, you’re edging towards Mussolini. You have to work right up to Gene Simmons vs Piers Morgan before you find someone so inherently repulsive that you contemplate siding with Simmons. It was totally inadvisable to make a big deal of out the man because he thrives on attention and they took the bait and fed the troll, which a slightly more careful observer may have considered an insight into the intelligence or lack thereof behind anonymous’s modus operandi, but it was nonetheless quite entertaining seeing the two sides rising to each others’ bait (I think they probably all enjoyed it really).
But then they did the stupid stuff like attacking various government websites, DDoSing mastercard and trying to disrupt people’s financial transactions, then contemplating DDoSing amazon (showing a tiny lack of perspective). And now Mugabe. What is the point? You can’t send a message to people by attacking them. It’s worse than futile, it’s counter productive, it actively aggravates the parties involved.
At this point you start to suspect that any positive effect they had was purely coincidental as you find reason believe their claimed motives of defending free speech and the Internet are in fact a rather superficial way to find things to be angry at and thus trying to contrive justifications to cause trouble, which was the main aim. So maybe I was a little generous in the way I conveyed them before. Although it’s also possible that as they went along and gained more notoriety the proportion of people doing it as a protest/activism became lower and their voices became drowned out by new recruits primarily attracted towards anonymous so they could cause trouble. Also, it seems to be the case that as time went along, Anonymous themselves started suffering DDoS attacks and had disruptions to their communication as a result, so then started branching off into smaller groups who did their own thing. So I am probably judging them all by the actions of only a few. It’s hard to say. They are fluid.
*apologies to talented Zimbabwean sys admins.