Let’s talk about Anonymous
So there’s been some hullaballoo recently about how Anonymous might turn out to actually be responsible for the PSN hack, but I think that honestly goes to show how poorly understood Anonymous actually is. Let’s break it down.
So there’s this website, eBaum’s World, where members can – and usually do – post anonymously. When you don’t provide a handle to go with your posting over there, you show up as “Anonymous”. On any other website, when someone would provide an answer to a question you posed, you’d say something like “Thanks, JimmyJim255!”. On eBaum’s World, you’d instead say “Thanks, Anon!” And so it grew to be A Thing.
It was funny, to pretend that Anonymous wasn’t some anonymous person, but a giant Hive-Mind of people. You send a question out, and it gets Answered. You request the source for a particular image, and it is provided to you not by a single person, but by the Great Anonymous Itself. The Hive-Mind has spoken.
What Anonymous Isn’t
Anonymous isn’t a tightly-controlled net of hackers. There’s no “Boss Anon”. No “Anon Bin Laden”. There’s no single member of Anonymous that you can arrest that will cause a “crippling blow” to “the network”. Because let’s be honest here, “the network” is generally a bunch of bored dudes, killing some time by browsing eBaum’s World and taking part in whatever looks fun.
Sure, some members are incredibly more talented in the whole Black Hat stuff. Sure, some are better at persuading the herd, through use of clever rhetoric, reverse psychology, and hilarious memes. But they don’t make up the bulk of Anonymous, and if they left and never returned, it would remain the same.
What Anonymous Is
Anonymous remains the same even through the loss of its members, largely because Anonymous is ever-changing. From one moment to the next, the “member list” is different. Some bored college student in California hits up a well-crafted webpage to join in on a DDOS attack on Friday night, and leaves on Saturday morning, bored. A talented hacker joins in the fight against Scientology because she has a friend she lost to the group, but leaves when they start attacking Sony, because she’s a hyuuuuge fan. Any “leaders” are at best temporary and individually-motivated. Participants are even more amorphous and random. Pinning down “Anonymous” is pretty much impossible.
It’s made even worse by statements from “inside” the group as well. From the linked article, a “veteren member of Anonymous” says:
“If you say you are Anonymous, and do something as Anonymous, then Anonymous did it,” said Kayla. “Just because the rest of Anonymous might not agree with it, doesn’t mean Anonymous didn’t do it.”
While technically correct, going back to the old-school definition of Anonymous as the Hive-Mind, it doesn’t help clear things up to the media. This point of view correctly places Kayla as a veteran member of Anonymous, at least, given the fact that she still thinks of Anonymous as the Hive-Mind across the internet, where thanking or blaming one member thanks or blames the Hive-Mind. But as far as news organizations are concerned, it really muddies the waters.
Kayla is not confirming that there is a well-controlled and organized cyberterrorist group called Anonymous. She’s not confirming that Anonymous is behind the PSN network attacks. There’s no confusion inside the Anonymous community about this.
She’s just saying, with the same playful, let’s pretend attitude as members of Anonymous have always regarded themselves, that if you thank Anonymous for giving you sauce, then you can curse Anonymous for taking down PSN.
Welcome to the Hive-Mind.