Categories: SecurityWorkspace

Lulzsec Is Poisoning Anarchism And Whistleblowing

One should be wary of knee-jerk responses in this twisting tale but, in one move, it looks as if Lulzsec has simultaneously poisoned two strands of online protest.

WikiLeaks claimed to expose suppressed information, and Anonymous operated a witty online protest campaign against governments and corporations which it said were blocking freedom of expression. Lulzsec has taken elements of both of these, and built them into a mad cycle of online vandalism which few people would now support.

Wikileaks’ Assange – a hero to many

WikiLeaks made its name as a whistleblower, publishing information which it believed to be in the public interest – including revelations about the war in Iraq. The organisation also tried to claim credit for Climategate in which raw scientific data was released online and misused by climate change deniers.

These exploits made WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, a hero to many – and now a martyr, while he remains on bail, appealing his extradition to Sweden, and awaiting more efforts by the US authorities to nail him.

Unsurprisingly, online protesters leapt to his defence, and these included Anonymous, a group that emerged from message board 4chan and since 2008 has specialised in attacks on corporate copyright, as well as government censorship.

Anonymous – an anarchic global brain

Presenting itself as an anarchic global brain, Anonymous threw itself into denial of service attacks against the enemies of WkiLeaks, along with continuing hits against copyright barons, and organisations such as ACS:Law, the firm which sent threatening letters on behalf of copyright owners.

Anonymous spread its net further with promises to attack nation states, including Iran, Zimbabwe and Tunisia. Taking down government sites in Yemen and Egypt, Anonymous capitalised on public role of online activity in the Arab spring uprisings.

Anonymous announced attacks on Ben Bernake, head of the US federal Reserve, and took down the CIA’s public site. These were politically motivated attacks, but no one was hurt.

Hacking for the Lulz

By comparison, Lulz Security, claims an attitude of irresponsibility, “duing it for the Lulz”, and for the comedy value of embarassing establishment figures’ poor security online.

However, it has also claimed political motivations. Lulz and Anonymous announced a joint operation, AntiSec, last week, with a mission to hit any and all government and establishment sites and expose their weakness. Its attack on Sony was also apparently in response to Sony’s unpopular copyright actions.

One could argue that embarassing the NHS will be a good thing long term – and more likely to get the organisation to wake up and get its act together than any approach through the correct channels.

But finding and publishing individuals’ user names and passwords from Writerspace and other sites goes several steps beyond that.

And today, Lulzsec has published online the personal details of Arizona police officers, an action it claims is a protest against the state’s immigration law.

How is publishing the home phone number of Officer Quackenbush, or whoever, an attack on Arizona’s policy? It is an attack on Officer Quackenbush. And is his wife’s name suppressed information that the public have a right to know? No. Publishing that is an intrusion on his privacy.

Lulz can still be amusing, of course. It claimed on Twitter to have attacked the sun – the celestial body, not the newspaper – saying “that bitch was down all night”.

But its actions have gone beyond a joke, and in the process have poisoned emerging Internet traditions of whistleblowing and peaceful protest.

Peter Judge

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

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