Definition of Anonymous

Anonymous is an amorphous group of hacktivists. Anonymous began as a small group protesting internet censorship, using novel ways designed to grab press attention. As idealists swelled the ranks, though, its unusually open and officially leaderless structure allowed it to be penetrated by cyber criminals and career hackers, who launched direct attacks on law enforcement. This was a long way from the chatter on teen-oriented message boards inside the 4chanwebsite, which was founded in 2003. (The name “Anonymous” comes from the identity given by default to anyone posting comments there.)

It was the Church of Scientology, which had a history of using copyright laws to go after critics and suppress internal documents, that was the catalyst for transforming Anonymous from online hangout to activist power. The process took less than a fortnight.

In January 2008, 4chan visitors and others passed around a YouTube video of Tom Cruise talking about Scientology. Ignoring the maxim that, on the internet, squashing something makes it bigger, the church served YouTube with a copyright warning and got the video taken down. This offended 4chan regulars such as Gregg Housh, an anti-establishment website programmer.

A debate began over what to do. One suggestion was that since YouTube videos are often downloaded and reposted, the group should look out for a repost and grab a copy for distribution to other sites. It did just that, adding text naming another internet chat that viewers could join to plot next steps. More than 50 people signed in. Some suggested an answering video, with a digitised voice reading a press release where “Anonymous” declared “war” on Scientology. As Housh and his online peers put the finishing touches to the press release, someone suggested the ominous tagline: “Expect Us”. Housh loved it. “You win!” he shouted.

With help from the press, Anonymous’s attacks on behalf of WikiLeaks brought it to its widest ever audience.[1].

Anonymous became involved with helping disseminate WikiLeaks information from the earliest days in 2006-2008 and  Anonymous rushed to WikiLeaks’ aid in December 2010 when the whistleblowing site faced what it has described as an “economic blockade” from payments processing companies.

Anonymous’ subsequent attacks caused service interruptions to MasterCardVisa and PayPal websites, and the group remained loyal to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his site throughout his extradition battle over allegations of sexual assault, and despite a crackdown from police around the world against the hackers.

Anonymous was reported to have withdrawn support for WikiLeaks towards the end of 2012 after individuals claiming to be members of the group  said the whistleblowing site had been ruined by egos.


Anonymous in the news

In April 2013, Anonymous threatened a cyber attack on Israel. In a video posted on the YouTube website, Anonymous said that Israel had “crossed a line in the sand” by threatening to sever all internet and telecommunications links out of the Gaza Strip.