You are hereHuffington Post: Giving A Face To 'Anonymous': A Meeting With A Member Of The Secret Society Of Hackers

Huffington Post: Giving A Face To 'Anonymous': A Meeting With A Member Of The Secret Society Of Hackers


-By Saki Knafo

June 15, 2011- Here's the thing about the secret international brotherhood of Internet bandits called Anonymous: It's kind of hard to get an interview with them. When you offer revolutionary groups a chance to say their piece to a mass audience, they generally get back to you within two to three hours, but Anonymous isn't a group.

Or that's what they'd say, anyway, if you could get them to talk. Most of the time they don't talk, except in 1980s robot voices. But more on that later.

There's been a lot of curiosity about Anonymous lately, and fortunately for the inquiring journalist, lots of non-anonymous people have been talking about them. The most recent flurry of chatter began on Friday, when police in Spain said they'd hunted down three members of the group (or the alliance, or whatever you want to call them). Anonymous had incurred Spain's wrath back in March by temporarily knocking out the website of the national government.

Then, on Monday, it was announced that the Turkish police had captured 32 additional suspected members. A few days before, Anonymous had taken over the website of the Turkish Telecommunications Authority and shut it down. In other words, if you went to the national telecommunications website that day to find out why your phone wasn’t working, you instead found that the website wasn't working, and you had a tantrum.

And then, on Monday and again Tuesday, came the reports that hit closest to home: Anonymous was going after the Federal Reserve. Even for a group that essentially set off a series of attacks that brought the multinational giant Sony to its knees in April, this seemed like awfully big prey. Yet if you doubt the group's ability to do damage to a powerful adversary, you probably don't realize that it's already landed big blows against some pretty sizable opponents – to begin with, Sony, and MasterCard, and Iran. Or that its members recently broke into the website of HBGary, an internet security firm whose CEO threatened to out Anonymous members, and published 50,000 internal emails and the CEO's social security number, humiliating him into resigning from the company.

As astute observers will point out, the news of Anonymous' declaration of war against the Federal Reserve actually arrived on Saturday, when the group posted a YouTube video that opened with a clip of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke reassuring a journalist that he had the problem of the growing gap between rich and poor "under control." This clip was followed by a voice-over manifesto against the bank, accompanied by a series of title cards and delivered in the voice of a robot as might be imagined by a director of 1980s B-movies.

But the story didn't really take off until Tuesday, when a series of articles in the tech press noted that the group planned go to battle that day -- both by hacking into the bank's website and by staging a series of old-fashioned protests at different banks around the country. And so, that day, an inquiring journalist set out to track down the shadowy syndicate. Or the secretive fraternity. Or whatever.

Calls were made to security researchers (hackers employed by the "good guys"). Tweets were cast out into the waves of the Internet. And then, at about 9:30 that night, after hours of silence, an answer arrived in the form of an email: Go to the Manhattan Municipal Building. There would be people there. Ask for "Gary in the White Hat."

First, a little history: Anonymous started about eight years ago on the imageboard of 4chan.org, a website where people posted random pictures of things they thought were shocking or worthy of "lulz," a.k.a. laughs. (Often these things were porn.) In 2008, a coterie of some of the more devoted pranksters who'd found one another on the site declared war against the Church of Scientology, accusing it of censorship for removing an unflattering video of Tom Cruise from YouTube.  

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