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The problem with Anonymous

On Friday I wrote an Opinion piece for The Age based on an earlier blog about why I think Australia’s proposed data retention laws are not only an invasion of privacy, they are an expensive measure that simply won’t work.  Today The Age ran a longer journalistic piece about the laws.

This prompted a couple of tweets from the Twitter account that claims to represent the Australian arm of Anonymous:

Tweets by the group claiming to be the Australian arm of Anonymous

This is the same group who claimed responsibility for hacking ASIO earlier this year.  Here’s the pastebin dump of ‘targets’ for hacking that they refer to in the tweets above:

#OpAustralia TARGETS

Reason: Submitted to PJCIS

Read More:

All Other Names, To be doxed.

If Vulns Found. Please MESSAGE an Operator on the #OpAustralia Channel.


1. Office of the Inspector of the Independent Commission Against Corruption

2. Gilbert + Tobin Centre of Public Law

3. A Brunatti and N Abdalla, Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, Brunel University

4. Public Interest Advocacy Centre

5. Australian Society of Archivists

6. Law Council of Australia

7. Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance

8. Commonwealth Ombudsman

9. Engineers Australia

10. NSW Ombubsman

11. Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner

12. Cisco Systems Australia Pty Limited

13. Vodafone Hutchison Australia

14. Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance

15. Macquarie Telecom

16. Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy 17. Australia Taxation Office

18. Electronic Frontiers Australia, Inc

19. Australian Communications Consumer Action Network

20. Hobart Community Legal Service

21. NSW Young Lawyers, The Law Society of New South Wales

22. Pirate Party Australia

23. Institute of Public Affairs

24. Human Rights Law Centre

25. Quessnsland Council for Civil Liberties

26. Castan Centre for Human Rights Law (Monash University)

27. Liberty Victoria

28. Internet Society of Australia

29. Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission

30. NSW Government

31. Huawei Technologies (Australia) Pty Limited

32. Corruption and Crime Commission of Western Australia

33. The Religious Society of Friends

34. Australian Privacy Foundation

35. Australian Federal Police

36. Blueprint for Free Speech

37. Northern Territory Police

38. Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

39. Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Intergrity

40. NSW Council for Civil Liberties

Spot any problems (besides the primary-school spelling and grammar of the tweets)?

That’s right.  Nearly all of the organisations listed wrote submissions to the Inquiry opposing the new laws.  @op_australia is calling for DDOS (ie, in basic terms, hacking) attacks on organisations that (presumably) support Anonymous’ view.

See the problem with being an informal, non-organised anonymous group of hacktivists is that anyone can don a Guy Fawkes mask and claim to be acting on behalf of the group.  And in doing so, many will do more harm than good to the movement.

Much (not all) of the Anonymous manifesto is somewhat admirable: they oppose privacy invasions, censorship, homophobia and exploitation of the vulnerable.  They support freedom of expression and Wikileaks and played a visible part in the Occupy movement.  They continually attempt to frustrate child abuse sites by crashing their hosts’ servers and those of sites they believe to be supportive of child porn.

But when kiddies from around the world start acting out of ignorance in the Anonymous name, without any understanding of the underpinning values it provides ammunition to the group’s opposition and devalues any good work they do.  If there are some influential members of a trusted source of Anonymous, they’d do well to step up and nip this sort of behaviour in the bud.

This could be the dumbest blog I ever wrote. Hope to still be online tomorrow!

4 Responses

  1. Calling a DDoS attack “hacking” is a bit of an overstatement. You could compare it to a virtual “sit in” protest I suppose, whereby people prevent access to a site by clogging up the servers with constant requests.

    In addition, the underlying philosophy of anonymous (“You can’t arrest all of us”) is really only applcable to the lowest tier of the group. Most of what anonymous has achieved is orchestrated and carried out by just a few key members that know their stuff. The people that wear Guy Fawkes masks and scream about being “legion” are quite frankly, an embarrassment. It was cute in ’08, but now nearly every idiot that buys a mask will try to slap the anonymous label on any cause they support. It’s getting out of hand and anonymous is losing power and credibilty because of it.

    In the longterm however, I think that it will be worth suffering a few fools if it means that the “elite” few of the group get to remain *cough* anonymous to the authorities a little longer.

  2. I feel like I’m often looking for interesting things to read about a variety of niches, but I manage to include your blog among my reads every day because you have compelling entries that I look forward to. Here’s hoping there’s a lot more amazing material coming!

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