RSA 2012: Anonymous ‘Didn’t Kill Evil, They Fed The Man’

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Josh Corman, of Akamai, says Anonymous failed to fight evil and just helped security firms sell their kit

If Anonymous’ aim was to fight evil, it failed, and in fact may have done the opposite by helping pour money into the pockets of vendors flogging DDoS protection and giant corporations making money from security, according to hacktivist expert Josh Corman.

If Anonymous’ aim is to get attention with DDoS hits, it won’t work for much longer, said Corman, in a panel debate at RSA 2012 in London.  He claimed Anonymous members are now quitting  that tactic, and the more technically advanced are leaving the group altogether.

Yet Corman had plenty of positive notes on Anonymous, on which he has written a great deal. He produced an entire series on the group, looking to take an objective view of what they do, which can be found here.

He said Anon was capable of doing great things, noting that they inspired activism and acted as the “canary in the coal mine” for problems in society, from government oppression to the power of the banks.

“They brought tremendous attention to legislation like SOPA, PIPA and ACTA, and the issues with the ITU over concerns of threats to a free and open internet,” Corman said.

Corman is director of security intelligence at Akamai, which sells DDoS protection itself, but was not speaking for his employer.

Anonymous ‘great’ for DDoS security vendors

“Many thought they were going to get banks to change, but all they were doing was filling the pockets of [DDoS protection vendors]. I’d like to say it’s great for us, but I care more about the social issues,” Corman said. “If their aim is to get rid of evil, it’s not working.

“Anonymous has very few hackers, it has very few activists… It is very misleading to call the groups hacktivists. The common attribute is angst. The talented ones are either quitting or starting to do things that are more clandestine.”

Corman, who has been tracking Anonymous and featured in the “We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists” film released this year, also talked about the hypocritical aspect of DDoS, as it is effectively censorship, applied by attackers who claim to be strong backers of freedom of speech.

Alan Woodward, from the Department of Computing at University of Surrey, said there was a danger of governments not listening to Anonymous’ complaints, even if valid, because of their destructive, disorganised behaviour.

“If you have a disenfranchised population you need to understand why,” he added. “But both sides are retreating to corners and lobbing things at each other…. it’s become trench warfare with no meeting in the middle.”

Despite these criticisms of Anonymous, the panel debating the motivations and worth of the group did have other positive messages on hacktivism.

Parmy Olson, London bureau chief at Forbes Magazine and author of the book ‘We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous and the Global Cyber Insurgency’, said the group encouraged people to take a stance and helped inform the wider public about privacy issues.

“Anonymous can be a gateway to activism – people are interested, they want to know,” Olson said.

Alec Empire, frontman of digital hardcore outfit Atari Teenage Riot, was also on hand to defend Anonymous, claiming it “disrupted the system so people can see it”.

Anonymous has plenty of critics, even surprising ones. When the group claimed a hit on Virgin Media, purportedly in protest at the ban on The Pirate Bay, the piracy site slammed the hacktivist group. The Pirate Bay said it did not believe DDoS was a valid form of protest.

Different factions within Anonymous also lambast one another. A UK-based splinter cell recently told TechWeekEurope the group as a whole was destroying itself, thanks to a large amount of infighting.

UPDATE: In response to the Corman’s comments, a member of Anonymous, Guy Tolo, got in touch with TechWeekEurope to talk about how the group operated. “In response to the said article we would strongly disagree as we have many skilled hackers from crews around the globe no longer called anon but continue to work with us , null crew, wikiboatbr, strongkk, zcompany (zhc) just to name a few.

“And are active on #ops globally not just DDoS. We deface, dump, null.d0x, seize sites to highlight a certain cause as a form of digital protest which we think should  not be illegal.

“As for number… activist/hacktivist have grown ten fold and work together very well as you will see on Nov 5th , it’s a lot older Anons no longer active that are fighting rest of us on #ops like #opfreeassange etc and as for big companies making money out of our DDoS attacks we shall look into that and target them in future #ops as we have a lot more skills that just DDoS.”

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