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Anonymous (used as a mass noun) is an Internet meme originating 2003 on the imageboard 4chan, representing the concept of many on-line community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain.[1] It is also generally considered to be a blanket term for members of certain Internet subcultures, a way to refer to the actions of people in an environment where their actual identities are not known.[2]

In its early form, the concept has been adopted by a decentralized on-line community acting anonymously in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal, and primarily focused on entertainment. As of 2008, the Anonymous collective has become increasingly associated with collaborative, international hacktivism, undertaking protests and other actions, often with the goal of promoting internet freedom and freedom of speech. Actions credited to "Anonymous" are undertaken by unidentified individuals who apply the Anonymous label to themselves as attribution.[3]

Although not necessarily tied to a single on-line entity, many websites are strongly associated with Anonymous. This includes notable imageboards such as 4chan and Futaba Channel, their associated wikis, Encyclopædia Dramatica, and a number of Internet forums.[4] After a series of controversial, widely-publicized protests and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by Anonymous in 2008, incidents linked to its cadre members have increased.[5] In consideration of its capabilities, Anonymous has been posited by CNN to be the successor to WikiLeaks.[6]


In December 2010, the document archive website WikiLeaks (used by whistleblowers) came under intense pressure to stop publishing United States diplomatic cable leaks. In response, Anonymous announced its support for WikiLeaks,[7][8] and Anonymous launched distribted denial of service attacks against, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and the Swiss bank PostFinance, in retaliation for perceived anti-WikiLeaks behavior. This second front in the December offensive was performed under the codename Operation Avenge Assange.[9][10][11][12][13][14] Due to the attacks, both MasterCard and Visa's websites were brought down on December 8.[15][16] A threat researcher at PandaLabs said Anonymous also launched an attack which brought down the Swedish prosecutor's website when WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested in London and refused bail in relation to extradition to Sweden.[17]

Operation: Leakspin was conceived by the Anonymous group, with the purpose of sorting through recent WikiLeaks releases and raise awareness of potentially important and previously overlooked cables.[18]

HBGary Federal, Bank of America, Hunton & Williams, and the Chamber of Commerce

In 2010, Aaron Barr, CEO of HBGary Federal, alleged that he could exploit social media to gather information about hackers. HBGary is a technology security company with two distinct but affiliated firms: HBGary Federal, which sells its products to the US Federal Government,[19] and HB Gary, Inc.[20] In early 2011, Barr claimed to have used his techniques to infiltrate the Wikileaks supporter Anonymous, partly by using IRC, Facebook, Twitter, and social engineering. His e-mails depict his intention to release information on the identities of Anonymous members and to sell it to possible clients.[19]

In early February of 2011, the activist group Anonymous hacked the firm's website, copied tens of thousands of documents from HBGary, posted tens of thousands of company emails online, and usurped Barr's Twitter account.[21]

Some of the documents taken by Anonymous show HBGary Federal was working on behalf of Bank of America to respond to Wikileaks' planned release of the bank's internal documents.[20] The plan included "disrupting" reporter Glenn Greenwald in his support of Wikileaks. Emails detail a supposed business proposal by HBGary to assist Bank of America's law firm, Hunton & Williams, in a "dirty tricks campaign" that included proposals to fabricate "false documents"[22]: "Potential proactive tactics against WikiLeaks include feeding the fuel between the feuding groups, disinformation, creating messages around actions to sabotage or discredit the opposing organization, and submitting fake documents to WikiLeaks and then calling out the error."[23]

According to other e-mails, the Chamber of Commerce hired the lobbying firm Hunton & Williams, and attorneys for the law firm then solicited a set of private security firms — HB Gary Federal, Palantir, and Berico Technologies (collectively called Team Themis) — to develop a sabotage campaign against progressive groups and labor unions, including the climate change watch group ThinkProgress, the labor coalition Change to Win, the labor union SEIU, US Chamber Watch, and Later emails revealed that the private spy company investigated the families and children of the Chamber’s political opponents. The apparent spearhead of this project was Aaron Barr, who circulated numerous emails and documents detailing information about political opponents’ children, spouses, and personal lives.[24]

Wisconsin protests and Koch Industries

In Feb. 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker introduced a governor’s budget repair bill that would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers, and included language that would allow for the selling off of state-owned power plants, as well as enable officials appointed by the governor to make sweeping cuts in health coverage for low-income families without having to go through the normal legislative process. The repair bill set off a wave of protests by public workers and supporters.[25]

On February 27, 2011, Anonymous announced an attack on Koch Industries[26] as a response to the Wisconsin protests. Between 1997 and 2008, David and Charles Koch collectively gave more than $17 million to groups lobbying against unions[27]; the Kochs are one of (Republican) Governor Walker's largest corporate supporters.[28] Anonymous accused the brothers of attempting "to usurp American Democracy" and called for a boycott of all Koch Industries products.[29][30]

Under "Operation Wisconsin," Anonymous members took down the website of the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity with a distributed denial of service attack on Feb. 27, 2011. In a press release, Anonymous wrote:[31]

"Koch Industries, and oligarchs like them, have most recently started to manipulate the political agenda in Wisconsin. Governor Walker's union-busting budget plan contains a clause that went nearly unnoticed. This clause would allow the sale of publicly owned utility plants in Wisconsin to private parties (specifically, Koch Industries) at any price, no matter how low, without a public bidding process. The Koch's have helped to fuel the unrest in Wisconsin and the drive behind the bill to eliminate the collective bargaining power of unions in a bid to gain a monopoly over the state's power supplies."

Occupy Wall Street

During the 2011 "Occupy Wall Street" protests, the Anonymous activist collective released personal information on Sep. 26, 2011, about a New York police officer believed to have pepper sprayed women protesters on Wall Street. The group released a phone number, addresses, names of relatives, and other personal data for a New York police officer that numerous Web sites identified as Deputy Inspector Anthony Bologna, as well as photos that appear to show him at the protest and a close-up of his badge.[32]

The move followed a video Anonymous posted that threatened to attack the NY police department if the brutality against protestors did not stop, saying: “If we hear of brutality in the next 36 hours then we will take you down from the internet as you have taken the protesters voices from the airwaves."[33]

On Sep. 27, 2011, a group of hackers got to financial giant Goldman Sachs, publishing the personal information of numerous employees, including CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Going by the name @CabinCr3w, the hackers blasted off a tweet that directed followers to the Pastebin website which lists Blankfein's age, education, recent addresses, and legal cases he has been involved in, as well as the emails and titles of more than eighty employees. Pastebin allows users to paste text anonymously and then stores it for a certain period of time. Pastebin said it removed CabinCr3w's post, but it could still be viewed on the trending pastes section of the website. CabinCr3w tweeted, "To the people asking... we are part of Anonymous just a group of like minded people taking on the world."[34]


Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Landers, Chris (April 2, 2008). Serious Business: Anonymous Takes On Scientology (and Doesn't Afraid of Anything). Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved on July 3, 2008.
  2. Jessica Parral, James Clark (February 2, 2008). "Internet Group Takes Action Against Scientology", City on a Hill Press (student newspaper), University of California, Santa Cruz. Retrieved on February 21, 2008. 
  3. Davies, Shaun (May 8, 2008). "The internet pranksters who started a war", ninemsn. Retrieved on October 29, 2008. 
  4. Cade Metz (May 14, 2008). "Google kills Anonymous AdSense account", The Register. 
  5. Tsotsis, Alexia (February 4, 2009). "My Date with Anonymous: A Rare Interview with the Elusive Internet Troublemakers", LA Weekly. Retrieved on February 7, 2009. 
  7. Hundreds of WikiLeaks Mirror Sites Appear. Retrieved on December 6, 2010.
  9. Un grupo de hackers lanzó la "operación venganza" a favor del creador de WikiLeaks. Retrieved on December 15, 2010.
  10. Posted on 12/6/10 by Sean-Paul Correll (December 6, 2010). Operation:Payback broadens to “Operation Avenge Assange” | PandaLabs Blog. Retrieved on December 15, 2010.
  11. Hackers take down website of bank that froze WikiLeaks funds. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.
  12. WikiLeaks US embassy cables: live updates. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.
  13. is down! And yes we are firing now!!! Keep firing!. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.
  14. PayPal, PostFinance Hit by DoS Attacks, Counter-Attack in Progress. Retrieved on December 7, 2010.
  15. Associated Press (December 8, 2010) Hackers Strike Back to Support WikiLeaks Wall Street Journal
  16. Adams, Richard (December 8, 2010). The Guardian. The Guardian. Retrieved on December 15, 2010.
  17. Assange wanted by US for 'espionage offencesTemplate:'-. Retrieved on December 8, 2010.
  19. 19.0 19.1 How one man tracked down Anonymous - and paid a heavy price By Nate Anderson, updated 2-10-2011, Ars Technica, retr 2011-02-11
  20. 20.0 20.1 Data intelligence firms proposed a systematic attack against WikiLeaks James Wray & Ulf Stabe, Tech Herald, 2011, retr 2011-02-11
  21. Bright, Peter (2011-02-15). Anonymous speaks: the inside story of the HBGary hack. Law & Disorder: Tech Law and Policy in the Digital Age. Ars Technica. Retrieved on 18 February 2011.
  22. Leyden, John (2011-02-17). Anonymous security firm hack used every trick in book. Enterprise Security. The Register. Retrieved on 18 February 2011.
  23. Firm targeting WikiLeaks cuts ties with HBGary - apologizes to reporter Steve Ragan, Tech Herald, 2 11 2011, retr 2011 02 11
  24. Joseph Romm, "Bombshell: Chamber of Commerce lobbyists solicited firm to investigate opponents’ families, children" ThinkProgress, Feb. 13, 2011.
  25. "Shock Doctrine, U.S.A." NY Times, Feb. 24, 2011.
  31. "Anonymous Attacks Koch Brothers to Support Wisconsin Protests" Gawker, Feb. 27, 2011.
  32. Elinor Mills, "Anonymous exposes info of alleged pepper spray cop" CNET, Sep. 26, 2011.
  33. "Anonymous Gives NYPD Ultimatum #OccupyWallStreet" NYConvergence, Sep. 28, 2011.
  34. Elinor Mills, "Hackers leak data of Goldman Sachs CEO" CNET, Sep. 27, 2011.