You’ve likely heard of anonymous, an amorphous and mysterious group of ethical hackers of hacktivists that are capable of making major issues for their targets. Using their programming and tech prowess, anonymous has exposed immoral activities of hypocritical community leaders, launched DDos (Distributed Denial of Service Attacks) and caused mayhem in the interest of moral justice. Despite their tendency to make ethical stances, many have spoken out against anonymous, claiming that they are cyber terrorists, evil vigilantes or anarchists. Others retort that Anons (members of anonymous) fight against individuals and companies that would otherwise be untouchable.
Anonymous is not a particular group of hackers that has monthly meetings with a hierarchical leadership. It’s actually a massive group of computer users of varying ability who ascribe to a certain internet subculture. It began to take from in 2003 when users of an internet forum site called 4chan posted images and opinions on basically any topic. The point of the website was to make it possible for people to share ideas without having to self-censor, as they could make postings completely anonymously.
4chan is known for its trolling enthusiasts and over-the-top discussions in which the partakers understand that there is no need to be polite in any way. Humor is an integral aspect of 4chan culture, as is a certain level of tech ability.
Discussions on 4chan forums began to lead to the participation in group pranking activities that yielded unexpectedly strong results. Eventually 4chan users began to realize that their practical jokes implied an online conglomeration of power that could be wielded with ethical intentions and produce real results. Anonymous began to rise from this realization, though many groups tended to splinter off of the original and most famous 4chan derivative. It was decided that anonymous would have no leaders, though some people do take on organizational roles.
Anonymous’s group-wide pranks have become known as ops. One of the most famous early Anonymous ops successfully carried out was known as Project Chanology. The internet vigilantes resented the “church” of scientology for attempting to remove a video of Tom Cruise from the internet (Anonymous is against all forms of censorship), and accordingly it created a YouTube video announcing its intentions to vandalize the chuch’s website. The attack began with a DDoS attack that took the church’s main site out of service. It continued on with orders for unpaid pizza that was delivered to church offices all over the world. Project Chanology also prompted the first physical protest started by Anonymous in which members wore Guy Fawkes masks and gathered in front of scientology churches.
Although the church of scientology is an agreeable victim for most who were aware of the incident, some may take issue with the pizza companies who went unpaid or some other aspect of these attacks. There is a certain level of amorality to the pranks conducted by the internet vigilantes, but most believe they have a net positive affect on the world, especially after their efforts were revealed to be so effective during the Arab Spring.