Attacks/Breaches
8/6/2011
07:35 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Building A Better 'Anonymous'?

DefCon 19 panel debates how the hacktivist collective could more effectively channel its energies for its own causes as well as for security

DEFCON 19 -- Las Vegas -- Aaron Barr was camouflaged in the audience here today rather than on the podium as the scheduled star panelist on the "Whoever Fights Monsters" session, while self-professed members of Anonymous later chimed in during a heated question-and-answer session.

The panel generated a provocative debate over whether the Anonymous hacktivist collective would be more effective if it retooled and focused its efforts -- as well as whether its very public hacks have actually prompted organizations to better secure their systems.

Barr, the former CEO of HBGary Federal who was targeted by Anonymous' LulzSec branch after promising to unmask some of its main members, at the eleventh hour had to pass on his slot on the panel due to the threat of a lawsuit from his former employer. But Barr's firsthand experience with being hacked, "doxed," and personally attacked by the hacktivist group served as a backdrop to the lively panel discussion, as well as the question-and-answer session at the DefCon 19 hacker convention.

The panel, moderated by Paul Roberts, editor of Threat Post, included Joshua Corman, director of security intelligence for Akamai; "Jericho" of Attrition.org; and "Krypt3ia," a security expert and blogger who began the session with his face masked ninja-style in a black scarf, identifying himself with the tongue-in-cheek pseudonym "Baron Von Aaarrrr." He later removed the mask after an audience member questioned the credibility of someone who would not show his face. "I'm overt, not covert," he said.

Akamai's Corman said Anonymous is more about chaos than white hats or black hats. "Anonymous isn't good or evil -- they're chaotic," Corman said. And the group and its brand of hacktivism and doxing isn't going away, he said.

But Anonymous' hacking, doxing, and exposing holes in organizations' security have not resulted in better security, he said. "My personal disappointment is if you think it makes security better by showing failure," that's not the case, he said.

Corman suggested that LulzSec would do better to channel its efforts on bad actors, such as child exploitation sites, for example, and cause "directed chaos."

"I'm not advocating vigilantism," however, he said. "But let's have a more intelligent discussion" rather than the seemingly random and chaotic attacks, he said.

Krypt3ia said calling out organizations for their weak or lax security wasn't the original purpose of Anonymous' attacks, anyway. "It was just an excuse made after the fact ... to [lend] it some legitimacy," he said.

And the mass-doxing strategy dilutes the impact Anonymous was going for, he said.

"You want to 'out' people for doing bad things? Well, cool, but do it right. Stop this crap of SQL injectioning and [leaking] unimportant data. The last dump on Mantech had one SBU [sensitive but unclassfiied] doc," he said. "So learn your target and know what you are doing. The real dirt comes out of insiders."

And it's possible the hacktivists could be getting misled by disinformation: "How do you know you have the real dirt? How do you know you are not getting disinformation?" Krypt3ia said. "I've seen companies already doing disinformation campaigns. Have Anonymous and LulzSec fallen into those traps?"

Jericho concurred that dumping massive amounts of uncensored data is ultimately relatively ineffective. "Releasing 250,000 cables is really cool, but it's hurting your cause. There's so much noise there and pointless documents. You could handpick them, or put them out one a day," for example, he said.

An audience member who said he works in Anonymous' LulzSec school responded to the discussion over the group's seemingly random and sometimes disparate activity. There are "eight different subcrews [in Anonymous] that each handle things differently," he said.

The panel basically agreed that protesting and calling out perceived injustices is a relatively positive goal of the group. But they also pointed to the lack of attribution. Dave Marcus, director of McAfee Labs security research communications who attended the session, says it's time for Anonymous to take ownership of its hacks and actions. "Do it openly and take credit for it," he said.

Gregg Housch, a member of Anonymous who participates in its chat rooms and protests but not in any hacking, says Anonymous should not have a particular focus. He says anyone can use the Anonymous "brand" in their hacktivist activities. "I'm not Anon, and I don't speak for Anonymous," he says.

He notes that some members left Anonymous after LulzSec's hack of HBGary and other organizations.

"If you leave Anonymous because you don't agree with something it did, then you don't belong in Anonymous," Housch says.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-7877
Published: 2014-10-30
Unspecified vulnerability in the kernel in HP HP-UX B.11.31 allows local users to cause a denial of service via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-3051
Published: 2014-10-29
The Internet Service Monitor (ISM) agent in IBM Tivoli Composite Application Manager (ITCAM) for Transactions 7.1 and 7.2 before 7.2.0.3 IF28, 7.3 before 7.3.0.1 IF30, and 7.4 before 7.4.0.0 IF18 does not verify X.509 certificates from SSL servers, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof s...

CVE-2014-3668
Published: 2014-10-29
Buffer overflow in the date_from_ISO8601 function in the mkgmtime implementation in libxmlrpc/xmlrpc.c in the XMLRPC extension in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) via (1) a crafted first argument t...

CVE-2014-3669
Published: 2014-10-29
Integer overflow in the object_custom function in ext/standard/var_unserializer.c in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (application crash) or possibly execute arbitrary code via an argument to the unserialize function ...

CVE-2014-3670
Published: 2014-10-29
The exif_ifd_make_value function in exif.c in the EXIF extension in PHP before 5.4.34, 5.5.x before 5.5.18, and 5.6.x before 5.6.2 operates on floating-point arrays incorrectly, which allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (heap memory corruption and application crash) or possibly exec...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.