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 and Akamai Technologies employee 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.
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]. It’s great for us,” 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 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 toldTechWeekEurope the group as a whole was destroying itself, thanks to a large amount of infighting.