By now, you’re probably aware of the mayhem and mischief that both LulzSec and Anonymous have claimed responsibility for. If not, I’m here to educate you. Both seem to have a feared and revered reputation as defiant hacktivists that accept no compromise. Although these two groups seem as close as cousins by nature, both have their distinct differences that we’ll venture into briefly.
One question still seems up in the air and at a divide in the public: Are these the good guys or the bad guys? The media often portrays them as vigilante villains and the internet seems to embrace them as defenders of freedom and transparency. While the answer to that question is difficult and often dodgy, I’m going to address the situation without bias. Afterwards, I want your opinion in the comments.
Famously sporting the Guy Fawkes mask and appearing at sensationalized protest after protest, it’s strange to fathom that a group with such a name is is so popular in today’s world.
Anonymous became relevant in 2003, birthed by the majority default of Futaba-based imageboards. These imageboards (and one, especially, that you all know I am talking about) are often shunned into deep web as sewers of the internet. Seen as cesspools filled with questionable images and other content, trivial inside jokes (“memes”), and internet trolls and bullies extraordinaire, it’s really no wonder why mainstream internet tries to tuck them away.
The most obvious snag with the Anonymous hacker group is the fact that there is no leader or figurehead. Anonymity comes with its disadvantages, and this is definitely one of them. As a whole, the group seems very unorganized and out there. Official membership is achieved by simply concealing your identity as you carry out your activities online. The entire group seems like an umbrella over several smaller factions. LulzSec itself is often described as a sort of subsidiary of Anonymous. Anonymous has often been often cited as a major contributing pool to WikiLeaks.
As Anonymous matured (and I say that carefully), the impact of their hacks and pranks began to magnify. Early in formation, you could find the group participating in:
- Habbo Hotel raids, where they collectively troll the game with mostly-racist insults and memes
- Defacing and compromising Hal Turner (white nationalist, Holocaust denier)’s website, apparently costing him thousands
- Invading, and quite literally assaulting, members of the Epilepsy Foundation through their forum
- Hacking huge hip-hop community websites like SOHH.com and AllHipHop.com
I can’t point out any true acts of heroism there. Hal Turner isn’t an angel, but none of this is progressive. As time passed, Anonymous grew. Their activities have completely changed:
- Attack on HBGary Federal, a security company dedicated to the US government
- Operation Sony, where Sony’s PlayStation Network suffered a breach and ridiculous amounts of downtime
- Operation Anti-Security, a collaboration with LulzSec dedicated to (maliciously) breaching government websites and security
Things have started to become pretty serious. There are large-scale hacks. After specifically searching for operations that show any glint of positivity, I’ve come across one:
- Operation Darknet, where websites harboring child pornography were attacked and personal information of those frequenting and contributing to the websites were posted
This is huge and it is even commendable. There are other ways to go about the situation, but I can’t find a real reason to argue with the outcome. This needed to happen, one way or another.
Several plots and attacks have been shrugged off by the majority as unofficial. Operation Facebook, where the Anonymous hackers vowed to take down Facebook, was disbanded. Anonymous’ threat to the NYSE during the recent Occupy Wall Street protests was said to be drafted by outsiders with no pull inside of the group. The attack, which ended up being merely a DDoS attempt on the NYSE website (not the exchange itself), managed to create a hiccup for all of two minutes. Fail, as they say.
The verdict: At best, Anonymous is a group of troublesome trolls and hackers who seem to scapegoat current events and search for an excuse to cause problems. They’re in it for attention and this is not a good group of people overall. Sometimes the chips fall in their favor, but they are not heroes.
When compared to Anonymous, LulzSec was more straightforward. They were also more organized, having only six official members. They seem to have had no issue at all in revealing that their intentions weren’t completely kosher. The group’s motto was “Laughing at your security since 2011!” and they were an organization that did it all ”for the lulz.” (It means it was done for their personal entertainment.)
LulzSec seems to have been a one-off deal and they have since halted all operations. To commemorate the disbandment and “achievements” of the group, LulzSec released the “50 Days of Lulz” on June 26th, 2011. The name plays on the fact that the group was in full and operational swing for exactly 50 days. The release included confidential accounts and passwords across various websites.
Preceding this final release, hacks included:
- X Factor contestants database release
- Fox.com sales database, usernames/passwords, and inner workings release
- PBS.org defacement, databased leak, and fake “Tupac is Alive” article
- SonyPictures.com database leak
- Nintendo.com breach with only a webserver configuration file released (because they like Nintendo)
More small releases took place on the group’s official Twitter, mostly consisting of Pastebin or MediaFire account dumps.
Just like Anonymous, LulzSec is no stranger to trying to play protector (as they did with Sega).
The verdict: LulzSec was a brief run, but that comes with no amnesty. Fortunately, this group seemed not to be concerned with views of the public and media. I don’t think a single member of LulzSec would wholeheartedly argue that the effect of their mischief was anything other than profoundly negative. Problem is, they seem not to care very much.
So, let us hear your opinion after this exposé’. Heroes or villains? This should be an easy one.
Image Credit: DigitalTrends.com