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Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013

The Anonymous hacker group continues to seek equal measures of revenge, justice and reform -- preferably through chaotic means -- for perceived wrongdoings.
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Anonymous continues to evolve. After launching online attacks against the Church of Scientology in 2008, Anonymous gained renewed energy with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks in 2010 against PayPal, MasterCard and other organizations it accused of blockading financial payments to WikiLeaks.

Since then, the loosely organized and chaos-loving hacktivist collective has continued stealing and dumping -- doxing -- data from businesses, government agencies and individuals that the group's members disliked, gaining further notoriety with high-profile breaches of HBGary Federal, private intelligence firm Strategic Intelligence (better known as Stratfor), consumer electronics giant Sony and even an FBI transatlantic cybercrime coordination call. Along the way, a limelight-seeking spinoff, LulzSec, and subsequent re-merger in the form of Operation AntiSec, helped further burnish the Anonymous brand.

At least, that is, until authorities caught up with alleged key members, leading to multiple arrests and convictions. Worst of all for Anonymous supporters, court documents revealed that founding father and LulzSec leader Sabu -- real name: Hector Xavier Monsegur -- had been busted by the FBI in June 2011 and within a day of his arrest turned informant. In short order, U.S. and British authorities claimed to have collared the ringleaders of the attacks launched against not just Sony and Stratfor, but numerous police departments and businesses. Far from being a group without a leader, authorities said, the Anonymous and LulzSec attacks had been carried out by a few key people, typically by exploiting known vulnerabilities in websites.

But with the alleged ringleaders facing jail time, the Anonymous brand didn't seem to suffer. Notably, Anonymous groups in specific geographies, including Mexico, South America, France and beyond, began promoting a more local and overtly political agenda.

In the United States, meanwhile, the group appeared to gain new impetus in January 2013, after Internet activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide. The co-founder of Reddit had been facing a potential jail sentence of at least 35 years after being arrested in 2011 for illegally gaining access to the JSTOR academic database and downloading millions of articles that had been funded by the U.S. government, and which he planned to post for free. Ultimately, he never did so, and after he agreed to unspecified damages, as well as to delete all of the data he'd downloaded, officials at JSTOR considered the case to be closed. Federal prosecutors and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, however, pressed ahead, ultimately charging Swartz -- who'd long suffered from depression -- with 13 felony violations.

In the wake of Swartz's death, Anonymous focused its efforts on reforming an issue already near and dear to many members' hearts: The 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) law that's often used to prosecute hackers, and punishing anyone it felt was responsible for contributing to Swartz's death. Cue website defacements and takedowns.

Read on to catch up on the latest Anonymous developments.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Edans.

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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/1/2013 | 12:20:31 AM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
Great slideshow. I'd actually missed the Rustle League story. I've always been interested by the shift from lulz to hacktivism. Far from just being DDOS attacks and data dumps, Anonymous has spilled over into real world politics in the Bay Area on several occasions-- the Oscar Grant BART protests, clear presence during the Occupy protests, etc. I've even found index card-sized flyers with their "Expect us" motto attached to street signs-- in the suburb-ish Outer Sunset of all places. With Anonymous ops, it's hard to know half the time if it's a single kid sending angry tweets in his room or a coordinate group of powerful hackers. But that's part of the reason it can be so fascinating-- such a uniquely Internet-borne concept.
- Michael Endler, IW Associate Editor
Leo Regulus
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Leo Regulus,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/3/2013 | 8:54:42 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
Information Week only had one important New Year's Resolution this year. '"No Slide Show Articles with out a prominent 'View-as-one-page' link." How's that working out for you so far?
Jonathan_Camhi
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Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/5/2013 | 9:47:33 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
I hadn't heard of this Rustle League incident before. Hackers hacking hackers. I wonder if all of the news surrounding hacking and cybercrime lately could put a big enough dent in people's trust in the internet to actually change people's behavior. Will people start taking their individual online security more seriously? Personally, I doubt it. I feel like we have already developed a sort of blind trust in the internet because it makes our lives so convenient that we don't even want to consider what would happen if our online credentials were compromised.
PJS880
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PJS880,
User Rank: Ninja
3/14/2013 | 11:12:35 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
Great article but I have to agree with Leo, I dislike reading these articles for that reason alone. All though the topics are of interest, I donG«÷t have the patience. I also have to disagree with Jonathan on his views on people and their awareness about their online security. I believe because of all the attacks and breeches and the general publicG«÷s knowledge is constantly increasing, which was the exact opposite in the past.

Paul Sprague
InformationWeek Contributor
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/24/2013 | 5:10:14 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
Revenge yes, justice only their own eyes, and reform only to remake the world to comform their ideas.
EslamP248
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EslamP248,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 10:14:14 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
facebook
EslamP248
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EslamP248,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 10:36:30 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
eslampop
EslamP248
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EslamP248,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 10:36:39 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
eslampop785
EslamP248
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EslamP248,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 10:38:11 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
my friends
EslamP248
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EslamP248,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/15/2013 | 10:38:29 PM
re: Anonymous: 10 Things We've Learned In 2013
top covere pix
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