In 2003, the online world was changed forever as a new group of hackers was created – Anonymous.Without central leadership, with no public figures associated with it and with a decentralized network of hackers working together, Anonymous is still as evasive and hidden as it ever was. But that cannot be said for their influence on how the online world works and what consequences real-life actions can have in the virtual realm. Over the 14 years now of their existence, Anonymous has conducted several attacks which have stood out. From protecting the rights of African Americans in Ferguson to defending Wikileaks to targeting groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church and the Church of Scientology, they have always had an opinion and have taken a stance on the hot topic of the day. So it’s a bit hard to pinpoint the most famous cyber-attack by Anonymous. But when we draw the line and see the impact, the effects and the consistency of an attack, we need to focus on their efforts against the terrorist organization ISIS which continue to this day.
2015 France Attacks and 2016 Orlando Nightclub AttackThe spark which ignited the hacktivist group’s retaliation was the 2015 Paris attacks. Until then, they’ve only made a point about being against ISIS and have taken minor if any collaborative action against the terror group. But after Charlie Hebdo, their efforts were increased significantly and some of them even started collaborating with government agencies. The latter, called initially GhostSec or Ghost Security, have been warned against collaborating with government agency by a spokesperson of Anonymous, in the form of an anonymous Twitter user. Officially, the group released a bone-chilling message aimed at ISIS at that point, marking the start of a virtual war against the terror organization:
“ISIS, We will hunt you, Take down your sites, accounts, emails, and expose you. From now on, no safe place for you online… You will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure… We own the internet… We are Anonymous; we are Legion; we do not forgive, we do not forget, Expect us.”However, in light of the November 2015 Paris attacks which left 130 dead, and hundreds more injured, Anonymous reinvigorated efforts against ISIS. By now, they had already closed down thousands of social media accounts belonging to or associated with ISIS. Furthermore, they also increased their attacks to hit ISIS websites and other online sources, taking down another few thousand sites in the process. The last major attack conducted by Anonymous against ISIS is the one that followed the 2016 horrific attack at the Orlando gay nightclub. Just days after the attack, Anonymous claimed responsibility for over 1,500 Twitter ISIS-related accounts being hacked and filled with either rainbow flags or pornographic material. Twitter subsequently deleted the accounts altogether. While there’s still an ongoing debate on the efficiency of these attacks against ISIS, seeing how one can literally recreate a social media account within seconds, the efforts to collaborate with government agencies and the sustained virtual war against the terror group have certainly made a mark and will continue to do so. In the end, all we can do is appreciate Anonymous’ effort and hope that it yields long-lasting and pertinent results.