Who are Anonymous?

Having emerged in the early 2000s, Anonymous has been at the heart of a multitude of cases that have shaken public opinion. This obscure group is known for its vast hacking campaigns aimed at revealing confidential documents or pointing out injustices and financial abuses. True “hacktivists”, its members mobilize to defend numerous causes, all under cover of anonymity. While the group had remained inactive for a few months, the George Floyd affair and the “Black Lives Matter” movement put them back in the spotlight. These hackers have returned to service to challenge law enforcement regarding police violence against African-Americans. To do this, they notably hacked the New York Police communications network to broadcast “F*ck The Police”, the legendary NWA song, on a loop. Please note, however, that Anonymous has carried out numerous operations of the same type during its twenty years of existence, of which here are some.

A bad memory for the Church of Scientology

The Church of Scientology was the first target of this hacker group. The story dates back to 2008 and began with a video of Tom Cruise extolling the merits of this religion. The sequence was massively relayed on the Web before the Church decided to remove them because it owned the broadcast rights. Considered a form of censorship, this act caused ink to flow on 4chan before a group called anonymous sent a video message published on YouTube to this religious organization. The group announced in particular that it would soon launch a series of attacks while calling on sympathizers to join them.

A week later, the Church of Scientology website was the victim of a denial of service attack. In addition, a vast campaign was carried out so that all searches launched on this organization would lead Internet users to pages containing defamatory remarks. The Church managed to remedy these attacks after a few weeks, but Anonymous did not stop there. The group subsequently decided to organize on February 10 in front of the Church headquarters. Against all expectations, the event brought together thousands of people who proudly wore Guy Fawkes masks.

A major contribution during the Arab Spring

Anonymous also contributed to the Arab Spring. From the first demonstrations in Tunisia, members of the group made contact with some dissidents while relaying the information to Western media. It was following this spotlight that the movement aroused the interest of journalists, but also that of politicians. Throughout this “revolution”, the governments in place launched a bloody repression. In an effort to protect activists, Anonymous members have distributed tutorials teaching activists how to maintain their anonymity. These defenders of freedom of expression also taught techniques to thwart attempts to block the Internet.

This “little” help allowed the demonstrators to communicate effectively despite all the measures taken by the regimes in place. To a certain extent, this group of hackers had succeeded in changing the face of the world. Thanks to their contribution, currently oppressed peoples were able to rebuild their homeland inspired by a democratic model. Throughout this revolution, Anonymous also harassed the embassies of the countries concerned. To do this, members simply decided to order pizzas by the thousand.

Operation BlackOut

Anonymous members follow the news closely. When the United States Congress tried to pass two successive laws intended to strengthen copyright, the small group rebelled. These two pieces of legislation would have allowed large corporations to restrict access to content that could harm their image. Concretely, the SOPA and PIPA laws give companies the possibility of taking legal action to ensure that companies domiciled in the USA no longer collaborate with sites attacked for copyright infringement. In other words, the creations of a videographer who has taken over a cinematographic work can no longer be broadcast on YouTube if the production house objects to him.

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Under these conditions, members of Anonymous mobilized on the Internet to launch Operation BlackOut. It was simply a matter of blocking the sites most visited by Internet users during the day of January 18, 2012. Against all expectations, certain Internet giants like Google or Wikipedia simply followed suit. In response to this, the FBI went after Megaupload and managed to permanently shut down the illegal download site. Following this event, the American government set up a special cell to track down the most influential members of this group.

Hackers committed against rape

It all started with an affair that had a good chance of being hushed up. A young high school girl from Steubenville, Ohio, was drugged and rendered unconscious before being dragged from party to party to be sexually assaulted. The two young men charged claimed to have received consent from the victim. In doing so, they were in no way worried since, with a bright future ahead of them, these teenagers benefited from the support of a large number of people. Fearing that these teenagers would be acquitted, members of Anonymous reacted to make the case public. As a result of their actions, these young people were ultimately convicted and sentenced for rape.

Over the years, the group never missed an opportunity to fight against sexual assault and did not hesitate to attack well-known personalities. A similar case that occurred in 2012 in Maryville pushed Anonymous to adopt the same strategy. The case was finally closed and the complainant subsequently suffered harassment. The members of the group then came to the aid of the victim’s family. These hacktivists returned to service so that the investigation could be reopened. Their efforts were ultimately rewarded and the rapist was found guilty.

An anti-jihadist group

Following the attack perpetrated by terrorists on the premises of Charlie Hebdo, Anonymous also launched reprisals against the jihadists. The members of the group notably decided to hack sites bringing together extremist Islamists. They managed to close the Ansar Al Haqq site, known to bring together many French jihadists. Later, the group also revealed the Twitter accounts of nearly 9,000 Daesh sympathizers. If these revelations made it possible to arrest many dangerous individuals, the police subsequently concluded that some of the people cited have no link with this terrorist organization.

What do we think of Anonymous in the end?

While we do not know the identity of the members of Anonymous, one thing is certain: these people do not hesitate to use great means to fight against injustice. Still, the means employed remain questionable. These “defenders of the oppressed” do not hesitate to violate the law to defend a cause or an idea. Furthermore, we will never know the extent of the attacks perpetrated by these people or even the fate of the stolen personal data. Their good deeds may completely hide actions carried out with the aim of enriching themselves. The stolen files can be used to blackmail large firms or resold on the dark web. Moreover, nothing allows us to affirm that in more than fifteen years of existence, Anonymous is still made up of the same people with good intentions.