The hacktivist collective Anonymous, along with other hacker groups based in the Middle East and North Africa, began an operation, dubbed "OpUSA," targeting the websites of nine major U.S. government agencies and over 130 banks earlier this morning in a protest against American foreign policy. Targets include the Pentagon, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the White House, along with the websites of banks such as Bank of America, Capital One and TD Bank. Calling themselves the "N4m3le55 Cr3w," the collective of hacker groups said in a statement that it aims to make sure "this May 7th will be a day to remember."
The relatively amorphous Anonymous, a decentralized and loosely associated collective of hackers, grew out of the internet imageboard 4Chan back in the early 2000s. As the very interesting and informative 2012 documentary on the group, "We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists," highlights, there is no one group called Anonymous with one set of goals or ideals. Rather there are a collection of groups and individuals that operate under the name Anonymous, often with varying agendas ranging from principle social activism to just messing with people because they can. Because of this, their actions can range from the awesome (such as their support for protesters during the Arab uprisings) to the simply mean and unnecessary (such as posting flashing animations on the website of an epilepsy support group).
Anonymous is joined by groups including the Izz al-Din Qassam Cyber Fighters, whose sole aim is apparently to get the "Innocence of Muslims" video removed from YouTube. Other groups involved in OpUSA include Mauritania hackers, Muslim liberation army, antisec, and lulzsec. Over the past six months, the Qassam Cyber Fighters have successfully carried out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against large American banks. The groups have been publicizing their planned operation for weeks now, and in their statement posted on the website Pastebin on April 21 they said that America will pay for the war crimes it has committed:
"America you have committed multiple war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and recently you have committed war crimes in your own country. You have killed hundreds of innocent children and families with drones, guns, and now bombs. America you have hit thousands of people where it hurts them, now it is our time for our Lulz. For this you shall pay."
Although the date given in the video above, July 4, and the date given in the statement posted on Pastebin, May 7, differ, according to the website Hacker News Bulletin, the operation already began just after midnight. See below for the full list of government agencies and financial institutions that are meant to be targeted:
Major Government Websites
16. http://www.regionsbank.com/ ( down atm )
46. http://www.astoriafederal.com/ ( removed from the internet )
52. http://ww2.guarantygroup.com/ ( daduck is this )
Although it remains to be seen how OpUSA will pan out, the U.S. government seems unconcerned about the ability of the hacker groups to cause any major disruptions. In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that the operation only "poses a limited threat of temporarily disrupting USA website," especially given that organisations have known in advance of the impending attack.
Anonymous has also said that it will engage in an anti-Guantanamo operation, dubbed OpGTMO, between May 17 and 19 to mark the 100th day of the hunger strike at the prison.
So is this latest operation by Anonymous and other hacker groups a principled attempt to highlight America's aggressive and destructive foreign policy, or simply a misguided nuisance?
Let me know what you think in the comments below.