Anonymous Pranksters Land on FBI’s Hit List

In December the 4chan pranksters ‘Anonymous’ unleashed their denial-of-service attacks against Mastercard, VISA, Paypal and PostFinance. Now the FBI is issuing search warrants against the users.

Anonymous Pranksters Land on FBI's Hit List

When you attack the engines of the free market, expect the market’s police force to come down hard.

The Anonymous pranksters grew out of the 4chan website and other image boards, including social media websites.  4chan was originally founded in 2003 as subcultural hub for manga, anime, technology and alternative porn aficionados.  In fact, Anonymous has been noted for launching attacks like Operation Titstorm and You Tube Porn Day to battle their oppressors.

And now it’s quite familiar to many that 4chan’s Anonymous crew, an ever-evolving, decentralized collective, invented the memes of Rickrolling and Lolcats.  Rickrolling plants a hyperlink to what is believed to be a relevant topic, and when an internet user clicks on the link, they are diverted to a video of Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.”  Lolcats… well, it’s best not to even get into that subject.

The point of this little historical diversion is to highlight that Anonymous has been around for about eight years, and in that time they’ve courted controversy with authorities through DDos Attacks.

They were under the radar, so to speak, until they broke into the greater American consciousness with the Project Chanology campaign, in which Anonymous members donned Guy Fawkes masks and began protesting the Church of Scientology in 2008.  Remember the Tom Cruise video that burnt across the internet’s firmament in which the thespian claims that Scientologists were the only ones quite capable of helping car accident victims, while the theme from “Mission Impossible” plays in the background?

This is where the story of Anonymous begins to gain steam.

The Church of Scientology threatened YouTube with litigation on the basis of copyright violations related to the posting of the Tom Cruise video.  YouTube and other sites removed the video, but Gawker did not.  And that is when Project Chanology was launched.

At the time, I was living in Los Angeles, and more than few times witnessed Anonymous members with their Guy Fawkes masks holding up signs across the streets from various Scientology buildings.  It was always rather fun to see, especially since their was an air of mystery to their protests.  They were an internet underground that had become flesh.

And while they weren’t silent over the last few years (they were involved with the Iran protests), their campaign in support of WikiLeaks brought them back into the news.

Their Operation Payback campaign, formerly aimed at those who would cripple internet piracy, was re-focused at the governments attempting to dismantle WikiLeaks by cutting of its servers and funds.  Anonmyous launched successful DDoS attacks against PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, PostFinance, as well as an unsuccessful attempt against Amazon.

Anonymous had kicked the hornet’s nest, in the U.S. as well as in the UK and the Netherlands.

Protesting against Scientology and music piracy are one thing; but, when an invisible, underground force is very publicly attacking the engines of U.S. and world finance, showing the world how markets can be temporarily crippled, it was inevitable that the U.S. government would execute search warrants related to the Anonymous attacks.

But, will the FBI search warrants achieve anything?

Other hackers will take the place of those arrested and convicted of launching DDoS attacks.  And many of the Anonymous members who contributed to the attacks merely let their computers be used by the Anonymous users who built the DDoS platforms.  It would be akin to going after peripheral Mafia soldiers instead of the inner sanctum.

It seems as though the warrants are a scare tactic to deter other Anonymous users or hackers, in general, not to support the free speech and free information efforts of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange.

We can argue all day about the legality of Anonymous’ DDoS attacks, but their reasoning on behalf of free speech and free information is pure.