Anonymity seems to be working against Anonymous.
The Daily Dot reported Tuesday that a hacker, in attempting to use a set of decryption keys to open up the files from Operation Last Resort—a hacking campaign allegedly perpetrated against the United States Sentencing Commission by the hacking collective Anonymous—came to the conclusion that the supposedly secret materials divulged from the USSC site were not encrypted at all. This indicated the possibility that the entire operation was a hoax.
Members of Anonymous themselves apparently agree.
Operation Last Resort was allegedly conducted by the hacker/activist collective Anonymous. The hackers involved claimed that they had secured information from the United States Sentencing Commission in retribution for disproportionate sentencing of hackers—specifically Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide several weeks ago while facing a long prison sentence for hacking MIT’s academic journals.
Anonymous, as a collective, has no structure to speak of; rather, individuals and groups coalesce around various message boards and “operations” are agreed upon rather spontaneously, though according to some protocols. So individuals and groups may call themselves Anonymous with very little consequence, which may have been the case here.
Writing on Pastebin, Joe Falzano (XeroFlux) stated, “ALL credible sources/anon cells to date have no idea who is running this operation. It came out of thin air and is using old anon operations data claiming its new.”
XeroFlux’s statement points to a belief that the “operation” may be an agent provocateur action, noting that “literally hours before this release Department of Homeland security named Cyber threats a severe issue and is trying to use this threat to enact SOPA style laws with executive order. This operation gives them a perfect example of WHY.”
XeroFlux even posted a petition on Change.org, asking whoever is behind this action to cease and desist.
“This operation itself breaks the basic core ideals of anonymous. Not to mention has signs of a complete fraudulent false flag perpetrated by the very people holding us back. We are not condemning those participating, only distancing ourselves from the message of this operation which goes too far.”
Regardless of the motivation for the operation, and despite the anonymity the group values, it is highly unusual to find no one in the net of acquaintances who can speak to the identity and reliability of whomever was behind Operation Last Resort.
“Anonymous is one thing but when your fellow anons are completly [sic] clueless who you are and where you came from when you bust out the gates with an operation this scope is quiet [sic] suspicious.”
The judicious application of Occam’s Razor might be most useful here. That said, if the image of President Obama on the Batphone to the cyberspooks at the NSA, ordering them to make a mess of Anonymous by hacking one of their own websites, seems ridiculous (for the record: it seems ridiculous), it’s equally silly to assume a small group of intelligence operatives are categorically incapable of screwing the pooch in so slapstick a manner.
After all, once upon a time, the President of the United States ordered low-level intelligence officers to break into an office and steal campaign information from his opponents.
So, while anything is possible, you still have to ask yourself what is more likely: that, or a bunch of knucklehead gloryhounds with terrible judgment hoping to jump on the Anon bandwagon.
Photo by Timothy Vollmer/Flickr