Posts tagged Anonymous
For a long time, I’ve had some doctor friends complaining to me that once Google Places changed over to the new Google+ format, all their patients lost the ability to leave anonymous reviews (thus hurting their business and their rankings). They asked me what to do; and I, in turn, asked my…
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Christopher Poole, known online as “moot,” founded the forum-based social network 4chan when he was 15. Coding in secret, he spent late nights in high school hiding his online life from his friends and family, eventually turning 4chan into one of the Web’s best-known meme-launchers and online communities.
4chan, which celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year, has also been a springboard for groups like Bronies and the hacker group Anonymous. Although Poole is still running 4chan, he’s now also working on Canvas, another image-based sharing platform, and Drawquest, a free drawing community for the iPad.
Forget College, Start In High School
ReadWrite: What’s it like to be a founder and a coder at the same time?
Chris Poole: Actually, I would say I don’t even fall into that bucket. I was probably a better programmer as a teenager than I am today. Which is kind of like the inverse of I guess what’s normally the case.
I don’t count programming as one of my talents. So I spent a number of years in my teens learning to program and doing it. But then, I reached this point maybe if you’re an athlete, or a pianist, and you kind of reach that point where it’s obvious that you’re okay at it, but you’re not going to go pro, or not going to play in the metropolitan opera house, you’re just not going to get to that high level. I reached that point in my teens, and it’s depressing on one hand, but on the other hand I think it was just like figuring out what I was actually talented at and honing in on that.
I think I was much better at product design and community management than the practical application of programming. So I made a decision pretty early, probably when I was 18 or 19, to just focus on the things I was good and not so much the things I wasn’t great at.
With 4chan, I basically took a step back, I mean I still basically design and inspect everything out and oversee everything. 4chan has always had volunteer developers anyway, and with Canvas, we had a founding CTO, so it’s definitely something I’ve kind of distanced myself from in recent years.
RW: When you started 4chan at 15 you were quite young, by entrepreneur standards anyway. What was your idea for this site and what was it like being a young entrepreneur?
CP: It’s based on a Japanese website, an image board. I basically found that site, Twochan.net and was pretty enamored with it because it was unlike anything I had seen before. I’m certainly like a child of the Internet, from a very young age I was using chat rooms and forums, and I spent loads of time in those places.
So this image-based discussion format was just new and interesting to me. I took that software and I translated it and modified a little bit and threw it up, then put it up for people to use and it spread from there. There wasn’t really much of a plan starting out; I didn’t have some grand vision like, “I want to have a large website and such-and-such amount of time.”
It was really just, “I think this is really neat, there isn’t really anything like it in the West for people who speak English as their primary language, and I would like to be able to use this.” [I] put it up and seeded it to few friends and everything is kind of current from there.
It was really just all word of mouth; I posted on a forum the day it launched just to say I started this thing. Aside from that I’ve never gone out of my way to ask for people to promote it or link to it or certainly pay for any advertisement, so it’s all been sprouted out of that.
RW: What was it like being a young entrepreneur juggling high school and this side project that turned into something huge?
CP: Nobody knew. My friends, family, my educator nobody knew about this site, until 2008. So it was actually a full five years that nobody from my personal life knew about 4chan. That was kind of interesting, because I kind of led these two lives. Where on one hand there were these kinds of people I was interacting with on a daily basis who had kind of had no clue, then there were other people I met online and I would later meet in person who knew about this thing I was involved with, so managing the two and keeping them separate was interesting.
I mean it certainly took up a lot of time. I was not a terribly good student in high school because I’ve always been a night owl, so I was going to bed at 5 a.m. If you look back at the oldest 4chan news posts, they’re all posted at like four or five in the morning when I’m 15 or 16 years old.
I was staying up super late and as a result missed a lot of school, thankfully I went to a public school that lacked a strict attendance policy so I kind of got away with a lot. I think they’ve actually changed this.
RW: You changed the policies of your high school? [laughs]
CP: Basically, I was like the worst, I mean I was just always tardy or absent, because I was staying up super late and there was some tension there between parents and myself. They didn’t know what I was doing at night. They knew I was on the computer but they had no idea what it was. Five years later I was vindicated in the sense that it made sense to them why I was up so late and then they saw that I wasn’t totally pissing away high school, and I was like actually working on something that would later become important and define a lot of my life and career. I think that was a little bit of relief to them once they find out.
Growing Up Online
RW: So why did you keep it on anonymous? Why didn’t you tell anyone?
CP: It was a privacy and safety thing. I was young and wasn’t even 18. The site had some, even in the early stages, inappropriate content like the pornography would be posted to it and choice language. I just didn’t think it would be appropriate if others found out about it. Later, it was nice to have that separation, what I saw as two separate worlds, and the reason I came out was that I knew it was inevitable.
I appeared three times in public, and I knew it was matter of time until somebody recognized me and revealed who I was and so I figured if that’s going to happen I would rather be the one in control of that and kind of do it on my own terms.
So when the opportunity to interview with Lev Grossman from Time, and Jane and Warner from the Journal, presented itself, what better way to reveal myself in national press? I either do it myself and it’s in a way that I can control, or its some 15-year-old compatriot that leaks my identity, so I chose the one where I had control over the message.
RW: So why did you select “moot” for your online persona? What does that mean?
CP: Unfortunately, the origin story is not that interesting, I just picked it. I do know that when I chose it I didn’t know that “moot” was a word.
RW: And you were missing school, so why would you know that that was a word?
CP: [laughs] Yeah, exactly, I was totally flunking. Also, the day I learned it was a word was when I watched Office Space, and if you remember there’s a “jump to conclusions” mat that their coworker makes, and one of the conclusions that is listed on the mat is “moot,” and I was like “Why is my name on that mat?”
So then I Googled moot and I was like, “Oh okay that makes a lot of sense.”
It’s kind of fitting there’s some irony in the name I chose; it’s kind of appropriate in a name.
RW: How big is the site now? Active users or unique visitors, do you have any numbers on that?
CP: We don’t, it’s hard to track. There’s no such thing as a login, but Google Analytics last time I checked it hovers around half a billion page views per month, that’s actually gone down a bit. But that’s actually [because we built it so] you don’t have to refresh pages anymore, they auto update using a background request using our API so that doesn’t count as a page view anymore, whereas people clicking refresh used to count as a page view. So it’s hovered in that realm for a while now. It’s about 22 to 24 million unique visitors per month.
It kind of fluctuates based on the season. The summers are our slow season as people are kind of out and about, and our high month is January because people are stuck in their rooms and it’s cold and crappy and they’re cramming for tests.
RW: Is there anything that’s happened that’s unexpected or anything that you wish you would have done differently?
CP: I guess the entire existence of the site. I always treated it more like a hobby than a company. When I set out, I never really set out with a long-term plan or goal, so to be standing here 10 years later with a million times more people using it than were on day one, that was kind of surprising.
Probably one of the larger mistakes I’ve made, something I wish I done better, is to do a better job of recruiting to help with the site. We have these volunteers who can delete things and block users from posting, but I kind of liked this idea of being a MacGyver of sorts and learning lots of obscure things and I’m glad I did because I have a pretty weird set of skills and knowledge now.
I’ve certainly been overburdened in the past just with all this work you need to be doing, and I was really the only person in a position to do anything about it. I think that if anything, one of the things I’ve learned from doing this venture-backed company, Canvas, is having really good help. Franchising people and giving them responsibility, doing a good job and appreciating their work is a really important management skill. At 15, I didn’t have any management skills, and in the time since, I have learned some of those things. The personnel side of things I could have done better.
Not Just Bronies
RW: 4chan has become a springboard for many memes. Did you ever imagine that it would be so influential?
CP: No I didn’t imagine it. But I think that it makes sense [because] the two things that really define 4chan are its anonymity and the ephemerality of its content. So the anonymity I’ve advocated in the past for allowing people to share using a pseudonym or share anonymously allows you to share in a way that’s unencumbered by your real life identity and it enables kind of discourse that you don’t find kind of elsewhere on the web.
Also, the fact that the site basically deletes itself every few hours. The content doesn’t last very long in the site, once it kind of gets pushed off the last page it’s deleted. It created this environment where people could be very experimental and provocative. At the same time, if ideas didn’t resonate with the community, then they were lost; they just rolled off the site.
So on one hand it’s surprising that it all happened, but on the other hand, the design itself really lends itself to the production of memes. It’s the ideas that can spread.
RW: Do you ever go on 4chan and just face-palm yourself? “What are they even talking about?” Do you ever have these moments?
CP: I mean, sure. There are certain boards that I don’t get because I’m not part of that sub-culture. But I’ve been using the site now for 10 years. In certain ways I’ve matured and moved on from things I was interested as a teenager or as a child, but I think in other ways I feel I’ve grown up with the site. So I think I have a pretty good finger on the pulse of modern nerdoms. It’s not all too surprising to me.
RW: What’s it like when your creation becomes bigger than yourself and takes on a life of its own? Do you like that its just sort of its own growing and changing site?
CP: Yeah, I mean I’ve always seen my role as, “I may be at the wheel of the ship but I don’t control the wind.” So I think a founder or proprietor of something can only exert so much control, after a certain point it’s just kind of the wheel of the community. Kind of like Mother Nature, it will kind of do its own thing.
As the proprietor you can change things about it, but at the end of the day you’re still subject to this external mightier force. That’s been pretty interesting to watch, and just to be smart about when to be involved and when to step back and let things run their course.
RW: You’ve talked about Canvas a little bit, was it a spinoff from 4chan? You guys use stickers before stickers were cool, so can you tell me a little bit about Canvas?
CP: It was founded to explore some ideas that I had about online communities. By that time [in 2011], 4chan was settled. People liked 4chan the way it is, and I didn’t feel it was appropriate for me to change it on a whim just because I wanted to try things out.
So I decided to do it as a separate website and separate company and raise money for that company. It is related to 4chan … but it’s kind of meant to be an offshoot.
We’ve since started working on this iPad app that we launched in February of this year called Drawquest and that’s actually done really well. Drawquest is a direct descendant of Canvas. We honed in on just one of the things we were doing with Canvas, trying to help enable daily creativity with people.
RW: Drawquest, it’s kind of an opposite of 4chan. It’s kid-friendly, and the audience is primarily teen girls. So the audience is sort of varied a little bit in your endeavors. Did you do anything different? Were you trying to target different audiences? Why do you think there was that shift change?
CP: With Drawquest it was a surprise to us. We designed the app for adults, but it’s been popular with new teenagers and the elderly, and it’s really all over the place.
It’s got a pretty diverse set of users. It wasn’t done on purpose, but it certainly was our goal to make the app appeal across all [demographics]. We wanted it to kind of have mass appeal and so we designed in such a way that we wanted it to be playful, fun, and kind of serious and silly at the same time. Somebody very young could use it and somebody very old could use it and they could both kind of feel equally at home.
That was deliberate but we never really set out to capture the teen girl drawing audience. That was something that happened naturally, and it has been interesting. 4chan has already been this younger more masculine demographic and the Drawquest demographic represents the polar opposite. I have ten years experience with the former, and now six months experience with the latter so it’s kind of like “Oh shit what do we do?”
I’m certainly very comfortable dealing with the nerdy male demographic but I’m just at at total loss when it comes to the teenage girl demographic.
RW: So your main projects right now are Drawquest and Canvas, are there other projects you’re working on?
CP: No actually, I tell people I’ve had three ideas in 10 years, and those are the three— 4chan, Drawquest, and Canvas.
I’m not the kind of person that wakes up every morning and is like, “I’ve got a new idea that’s going to change the world!” I have very few.
On the side I advise a venture firm called Lerer Ventures here in New York, I’m a member of this open source art collective called F.A.T. Lab, so there are other things I’ve dabbled in. But in terms of projects I spend time on, it’s only ever been 4chan and the venture-backed stuff.
RW: You still go on 4chan everyday?
RW: Do you post on there everyday and participate in discussions?
CP: Not everyday, I do from time to time. I browse, kind of like most other people. My relationship and my way of browsing is different than that of a normal user.
I did this interview a few months ago with Rhizome, I compared it to gardening or something, or maybe cooking. I’ve been cooking a lot recently, now I have an appreciation for it. Cooking sucks for other people.
I love cooking with and for other people but, when you’re the chef and see how the sausage is made, you sit down for the meal and the other person is like, “Oh this is great!” and you’re like, “Oh this could have been salted more this could have been cooked a little bit.” You find the flaw. It’s the same thing with gardening, an outsider can appreciate something for its beauty, whereas you’re looking for the weeds
You’re like, “Oh there’s fucking weeds! That’s not right!” When it’s your thing and you have the power to change it, your relationship changes.
Not to say it’s stressful, but it’s a different way of using a product, and I think that goes for most everybody who uses a product they work on, you’re constantly looking to make it better.
Protecting Our Online Anonymity
RW: Let’s touch again on the anonymous thing. You’ve been a large proponent of maintaining anonymity online, and even the hacker group Anonymous was formed on 4chan. Is there a message that you want to give people regarding Internet privacy, especially now with the NSA and big Internet companies coming under fire for user privacy?
CP: Yeah, I’ve always been an advocate of giving people choices when it comes to how they express themselves online. It’s not to say that everybody should be anonymous, but I think that having the option to post with your real name or post with a handle or anonymously it’s powerful. Users should demand that they have those options when they choose use a service, and have that flexibility.
The trend is away from that. The trend is to use your first and last name and a picture of yourself, and that’s where the web and service providers have pushed us. Part of it is just that most people don’t stand up to it and kind of demand options.
I think it’s going to be a shame, though, that if five or ten years from now we’re in a place where we don’t have places like 4chan as kind of an outlet when people want to speak their mind; ways to express ourselves that’s unencumbered by our real life identity.
RW: Do you think it’s the responsibility of the company or of the users to maintain that privacy or advocate for that? You were saying that right now it’s accepted that everyone has his or her name and picture everywhere online. Do you think that users should be more wary or cautious of that and demand better privacy options?
CP: It’s a mix of both. As far as privacy goes, the service providers, in terms of what information they collect and how long they store it and how they make it available to third parties, that’s really all on the company. Users have the right to know what’s collected and how it’s stored, if there’s something wrong there then they should demand a change.
That’s been the case with Facebook over the years. Every little change they make people try and stand up to it, but at the end of the day as we’ve seen with Facebook, only a very small fraction of their users stand up and say something, even when they do it doesn’t really affect change.
It has to be a partnership, people should be have their voice be heard and be vocal about what should go and what shouldn’t, but also I think companies need to be willing to. Today we haven’t seen companies meet people halfway. We’ve seen one half, which is people being very upset about certain changes services providers have made and revelations about data government is collecting, but also service providers need to meet people halfway. So it’s kind of like a partnership between the two.
RW: Do you think that people will start moving towards social platforms that are more anonymous, or new social platforms will come up and say, “Well if you don’t want your stuff all over Facebook, I’ve just started this private social network?”
CP: I could envision a future where that would be the case. I’ve always been a huge fan [of forums]. Forums tend to be these interest-based communities where strangers gather around a common shared interest. Forums used to be the social networks of old, and I think there are plenty of things people want to discuss and want to be exposed to that they’re just not able to get on to something like Facebook. So I think there will always be demand for more traditional online communities.
Will there be some mass exodus from Facebook? Probably not, but it’s possible for people to use both and scratch your niche so to speak, by using sites like 4chan and other online communities like Reddit in addition to Facebook.
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The social network has removed the “Who can look up your Timeline by name?” search feature. All users will now show up whenever someone types their name in the Facebook search bar. You’ll have to adjust your privacy settings on past posts.
View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest
In what could have a significant impact for advertisers, Google is reportedly considering a change to how they track users online. Google might no longer use traditional cookies to track users, instead using an anonymous identifier called “AdID”.
View full post on Search Engine Watch – Latest
Don't become another anonymous website, maximise SEO
Bdaily is looking at Online Marketing in this, our latest focus week. Here, Stephanie Liversidge, marketer at eastQuay IT, analyses the impact of good SEO. Does anyone recognise the existence of your website? All those set up costs and nobody has ever …
View full post on SEO – Google News
Barrett Lancaster Brown, best known as the so-called former mouthpiece for the hacker collective Anonymous, is sitting in a jail cell in Texas. For the past eight months, Mansfield Law Enforcement Center has been home for the journalist and activist now known as Prisoner 35047177.
Three hots and a cot will continue to be his routine at least until September, when he is scheduled to stand trial on 17 charges, including allegations that he threatened an FBI agent and committed identity theft and credit card fraud.
The slightly built 31-year-old former heroin addict denies the charges. What he does admit is that he used his hacker connections to look under rocks and uncover what he considered evidence that the U.S. government was using private security companies to clip the wings of Internet activists and sympathetic journalists.
Brown: I Wasn’t A Hacker
Brown’s sometimes questionable behavior and affiliations make him a confusing and polarizing character. He claims he never hacked anything, and we’ll probably never know with certainty exactly which details in his story stack up, or what involvement he had with Anonymous’ core hackers.
There doesn’t seem to be much evidence Brown was involved in any actual hacking, despite his connection to both Anonymous and his obsessive interest in federal security contractors. But his outspokenness, drug history and outlandish claims make him unsympathetic and hard to believe — an unlikely poster child for Internet freedom. And his unbalanced, over-the-top YouTube rants — more on those below — made him an easy target for the feds.
What we do know is that in early 2011, Anonymous targeted a security contractor called HBGary Federal and its CEO Aaron Barr after Barr publicly claimed he’d infiltrated the hacker collective. When Barr threatened to reveal the identities of Anonymous members, the group hacked straight into HBGary’s servers, stealing 70,000 company emails.
Brown, through his affiliation with Anonymous, then posted a link to those hacked company documents on a public website called Project PM and wrote about his findings for the U.K. Guardian. Brown, who seems to have been conducting an obsessive investigation of both HBGary Federal and Stratfor (another security contractor hacked by Anonymous), claimed the material proved that the companies were hired by the government to monitor and shut down various online activist groups. In particular, he alleged that HBGary was working with high-level government agencies to feed fake information to WikiLeaks.
The aftermath of the HBGary episode led to Barr’s unceremonious departure from the firm. Brown would later claim on YouTube that Barr’s well-connected friends then mounted a federal vendetta against him.
In The Feds’ Crosshairs
Brown, one of the few public figures available for authorities to target for the activities of Anonymous, is basically a fall guy for the hacker collective. He faces 100 years behind bars if found guilty on all counts. And right now he’s stewing in a cell where he may be getting less than proper care. In a Pastebin message from last September, Brown claimed he did not receive appropriate medical attention for crushed ribs suffered during the FBI’s raid of his home.
Between his connection to Anonymous and his obsession with digging up dirt on the national security state, Brown pinged up on the feds’ radar pretty quickly. He was first indicted last year after allegedly threatening federal agents. He was arrested, then subsequently indicted a second time for allegedly linking to stolen documents from Stratfor that included credit card data.
The third indictment involves an obstruction charge of concealing evidence, wherein Brown allegedly hid two laptops when federal agents stormed his mother’s home in a raid. The laptops were eventually found and confiscated. The alleged threats and credit-card charges led prosecutors to push for a life sentence.
In some ways, Brown’s muckraking wasn’t all that different from what many journalists have always done, updated to employ digital tools. Reporting based on leaked documents — which, of course, aren’t usually authorized for release — is as old as investigative journalism itself.
But Brown pushed the boundaries, and his drug history and proximity to the hacker community made him more vulnerable than other rabble rousers such as columnist Glenn Greenwald. Brown wasn’t a staffer at a major publication, and his own blistering public statements and threats, on both television and YouTube, gave the government all the motivation it needed to take him down.
Barrett Brown’s Incendiary Videos
Major news organizations like the New York Times and The Guardian both describe Brown as a victim of persecution. And in many ways he is, although some of his alleged actions are criminal by definition, such as threatening the life of a federal agent.
Brown’s legal troubles began when his mother’s Dallas home was first raided in March of 2012. At that time, the feds confiscated his laptop, and by his account terrorized his mother and sent his life into a downward spiral.
After the raid, Brown took to the Web to tell his side of the story. On Sept. 11, 2012, Brown posted a trio of videos lashing out at perceived enemies:
At around the 12:00 mark of video number 2, Brown says that the FBI views him as a bad guy, and that he’s going to prove in the court system just how bad of a guy he is. About a minute later he demands that the FBI return his laptop, notebook and Xbox.
In the third video, shot and released a day later, Brown brings up his heroin addiction and subsequent move to suboxone, a narcotic used to treat oppiate addiction. At around the 12:00 mark of this video, Brown warns that he is armed and has been trained to shoot, saying if any FBI agents come to his home, particlary one agent that really irked him for allegedly harassing his mother:
I will shoot them and kill them… I have no choice left but to defend my family, myself, my girlfriend, my reputation, my work, my activism, my ideas and the revelation that my friends are going to prison so we can have a chance to get out for other people. So they would matter. And frankly, you know, it was pretty obvious I was going to be dead before I was 40 or so, so I wouldn’t mind going out with two FBI sidearms like a f***ing Egyptian pharaoh. Adios.
Hours later, while on a live feed on TinyChat, Brown’s home was raided and he was arrested. The whole thing is captured in this almost surreal video:
Since his arrest, Brown’s mother Karen has also been targeted by authorities. She pled guilty to obstructing the execution of a search warrant, and now faces up to a year in jail and a $100,00 fine. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
Brown has gotten some support from the Internet community, but nothing like the outpouring for the recently passed Aaron Swartz. Anonymous created a White House petition to stop his prosecution, but the reprieve didn’t come close to getting the required 100,000 signatures by the April 20 deadline. Supporters have built several sites to educate the public about his plight, the timeline of his case and to help raise money for legal representation.
Hard Times For The Fall Guy
Brown’s supporters have raised about $20,000 for legal fees, and Brown has a new team of lawyers replacing his previous public defendants. But the court had up until last week frozen Brown’s access to those funds, which meant that Brown’s new legal team of Ahmed Ghappour and Charles Swift were essentially working pro bono. But that all changed last Wednesday when the court allowed the transfer of funds to pay for the lawyers’ travel expenses and fees.
It’s still a long way to Brown’s September trial, which could end up conflated in public perception with two other prominent hacker prosecutions. There’s the case of Matthew Keys, the journalist facing a $750,000 fine and jail time for allegedly feeding passwords to Anonymous members who then defaced the Los Angeles Times‘ website. Andrew Auernheimer, the hacker also known as Weev, is also appealing his sentence of more than 41 months in prison for his role in a 2010 hack of AT&T.
All of these cases are related to the much-maligned Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) the outdated law that has led to a number of questionable prosecutions — often of activists like Aaron Swartz rather than actual computer criminals. By the time Brown’s trial gets going, there could be government movement to reform the poorly constructed law.
Prosecuting Brown Won’t Stop Hacking
The federal case against Brown, once you understand the details, doesn’t pass the laugh test. It turns hyperlinking into a crime akin to breaking into secured computers and casts loose and admittedly unwise Internet soapboxing as criminal conspiracy against federal agents. And it turns one link into 11 separate charges of alleged identity theft.
Arresting hackers and fringe collaborators doesn’t seem to be slowing the tide of cyberattacks. The last 12 months have seen some of the biggest cyber attacks on record. Denial of service attacks are up 12% since 2011, according to data from the security firm Arbor Networks. If the government really wants to stop hacking attacks, it needs to focus more on the actual perpetrators and less on show-trial prosecutions of peripheral figures like Brown.
Which isn’t to say that Brown himself deserves to get off scot-free, just that his proposed punishment should fit his alleged crime. No matter what the circumstances, once you threaten the FBI, the feds are pretty much guaranteed to come down on you. And even Barrett Brown should have known that.
Photos courtesy of Shutterstock, Twitter
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Anonymous has called for an Internet blackout to protest CISPA, the much maligned cybersecurity bill that threatens your privacy more than it protects it. But without the support of Reddit, which co-sponsored last year’s SOPA blackout, the Web isn’t listening.
About 200 hundred sites have joined the #CISPABlackout today in protest of CISPA, which last week passed the House of Representatives. That may sound like a big number, but the list mostly consists of small sites within the hacker community. That’s a big contrast to the last year’s SOPA protests, which drew support from huge organizations like Google and Wikipedia.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) April 22, 2013
Exceptions include the nonprofit Fight for the Future, which has tweeted solidarity but has not blacked out its site. Another is Stan Lee’s Comikaze, the comic book convention backed by the former Marvel Comics head honcho, which has blacked out its site.
A Reddit Divided
Reddit itself appears conflicted over the CISPA blackout. Some Reddit sections, aka subreddits, have switched their background color to black and added a CISPA protest banner and link, but have stopped short of a full blackout that would inconvenience users by obscuring links. As of about 11am PT, subreddits including “pics,” “politics,” “funny,” “askreddit” and “technology”) have black backgrounds, although their listed links remain visible in the foreground. Reddit’s front page and subreddits such as “news” and “worldnews” remain un-blackened.
It’s a clear case of the hacker collective overestimating its influence, as my ReadWrite colleague Dan Rowinski suggested to me in chat earlier today. “Without Reddit, it is just Anonymous proclaiming something into its own echo chamber,” he wrote.
It also doesn’t help that Internet firms themselves are divided on CISPA. Microsoft and Facebook may have recently walked back their support for the bill — which, by the way, faces a veto threat from President Obama — but Google hasn’t taken a position. And a rogue’s gallery of telcos, ISPs and other tech firms support CISPA.
CISPA threatens our privacy by essentially giving the government a blank check to monitor all of our online communication, without a warrant. So a sign of solidarity blacking out the Web would be a good thing. But it seems the collective isn’t as influential in garnering support as it is when its making cyberattacks. Which is too bad, because this mission would actually be a good thing.
Below is a video from Anonymous explaining more about the blackout:
If you want to contact your local senator or congressperson, check out this list of contact information from Anonymous. Here’s some background on Anonymous’ plans and how you can further support the blackout.
Lead image via Imgur, although it’s circulating across the Internet and its provenance is unknown
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As the world waits in bated breath and watches Pyongyang to make good on its nuclear threats, the hacker collective Anonymous has made its own move in the increasingly cyber conflict between North Korea and the world.
On Tuesday, the group claimed to have stolen 15,000 passwords from the communist nation as part of what it calls Operation North Korea. Late Wednesday, as tensions rose in Kaesong over the North’s closure and seizure of a industrial park it shares with the South, along with repeated declarations of nuclear launch, Anonymous advanced its own chess pieces. The hackers allegedly seized control of North Korea’s official Twitter and Flickr accounts, in the process defacing several related websites, and making the autocratic nation look extremely unprepared for cyber attack.
Tango Down flickr.com/photos/uriminz…
— uriminzokkiri (@uriminzok) April 4, 2013
The Uriminzokkiri accounts on both the social media networks, which translates to “our nation,” looked like anything but North Korea’s after the strike. The Twitter account’s avatar changed to a couple in Guy Fawkes masks tangoing, while the Flickr account filled up with less-than-flattering images of the supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.
In addition, several sites hocking propaganda material have been hit by digital graffiti (visit Aindf.com to see a wanted poster of Kim Jong Un). North Korean state-run news site Uriminzokkiri.com has been knocked offline, possibly by related DDoS attack. The Next Web is reporting that a Pastebin note, allegedly from the hacktivists, claims that they have agents on the ground fighting off the North’s “cyber army.” Below is an excerpt from the latest Pastebin message, supposedly penned by Anonymous members, explaining the group’s reasoning and m.o. for the attack:
If Kim Jong Un really does have thousands of soldiets in his cyber army, it’s likely that this attack will soon be thwarted and things will go back to normal. Normal, of course, being very relative as the bluffing situation escalates between the peninsula and the rest of the world.
Will Anonymous’ actions (in February they hacked the U.S. State Department) push the conflict over the edge and give the 30-year-old despot reason to hit the launch button and plunge the world into hot war? Who knows what this digital assault will do to the man’s ego, since he is already eager to prove himself in the wake of his father’s passing.
When ex-NBA oddball Dennis “the Worm” Rodman seems to have more on-the-ground knowledge of the leader than every major intelligence agency combined, you know we’re in a pickle, no matter how you cut it. Anonymous is pulling on the tail of a tiger – if this is the prelude to the end of the world, let’s hope they have a viable plan for when the beast turns around and bears its fangs.
Image courtesy of Uriminzokkiri
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Disbelief and shock. That’s what’s sweeping across the Web following news that one of its best and brightest social journalists, Reuter’s Matthew Keys, has been indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly helping Anonymous deface the Los Angeles Times website in 2011. (See the full indictment below.)
The 26-year-old deputy social media editor has been charged with providing hackers with server login credentials to access the Tribune Company’s site. Keys had previously worked as a web producer for the Tribune-owned KTXL FOX 40, in Sacramento, Calif. The charges are serious, but what he allegedly did… wasn’t, really. The site break-in described in the indictment led to a hack that defaced a story.
Keys has been charged with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 for each count. In addition, he also must forfeit property related to the crime.
Journalists and members of the media are still having trouble wrapping their heads around the news.
wow – this story about Matthew Keys and Anonymous is bizarre: politico.com/blogs/media/20…
— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) March 14, 2013
Even others in the hacker community are shaking their head, like ‘Weev,’ nee Andrew Auernheimer, who himself faces jail time over his role in exposing the email addresses of thousands of AT&T customers.
Let us pray for @thematthewkeys in his struggle against the beast.
— Andrew Auernheimer (@rabite) March 14, 2013
Say It Ain’t So!
Key’s alleged involvement with Anonymous, should it prove true, has been under our noses for some time. Keys wrote about Anonymous on multiple occasions, including his first post for Reuters back in Feb. 2012:
— Matthew Keys (@TheMatthewKeys) February 3, 2012
That same year, he wrote about suspicions that hacker turned government informant Sabu had trusted him and revealed personal details when the two spoke in an online chat room. In 2011, someone claiming to be Sabu may have ratted out Keys on Twitter with details that appear in the indictment:
http://tinyurl.com/mattkeysexposed AESCracked/Matt Keys was former producer for Tribune sites. Gave full control of LATimes.com to hackers.
— The Real Sabu (@anonymouSabu) March 22, 2011
Why And What Now?
It’s not entirely clear why the Justice Department choose to indict Keys now, in 2013, two years after the hacking/defacing incident. It’s possible it took the government that long to gather evidence. Or maybe the feds tried, but failed, to turn Keys — pardon the pun — to nab bigger figures within Anonymous.
Either way, it certainly looks like the Justice Department wants to make an example of Keys, which would make him the latest of several high-profile Web figures so treated (think Aaron Swartz, Bradley Manning and even Kim Dotcom for starters).
According to The Atlantic Wire, Benjamin Wagner, the same federal prosecutor in the Keys case, took down Sabu. So did Sabu rat out Keys for a shorter sentence? At the moment, there’s no way to know.
Personally, I’m saddened by this. I know Keys. Although we’ve never met in real life, our paths have crossed many times online. We follow each other on Twitter and are Facebook friends, and we direct message and Facebook message each other regularly. When I heard about the charges, I called Keys’ phone. It rang and rang and went to voicemail. I left a message. I still haven’t heard back.
His arraignment is April 14 in Sacramento, and according to some reports, it looks like he may be fired at Reuters. So was Keys a covert agent for Anonymous? A guy supportive of some deviant hijinks? Or actually an innocent bystander? We can’t really say. If there’s any truth to the indictment, my money is on him being a reporter who got too close to the fire and got burned.
Which could, of course, still ruin his career. But what I really hope is that Keys doesn’t end up wasting his talents behind bars.
Here’s the federal indictment:
Lede image via Matthew Keys’ Facebook page
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While you were sleeping last night, Anonymous hacked into the U.S. State Department’s website, reportedly in the name of fallen comrades Aaron Swartz and recently arrested members of LulzSec. Personal data – including names, email addresses and phone numbers of hundreds of State Department staffers – were leaked online to the ZeroBin website.
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) February 20, 2013
The group also allegedly hit the investment firm George K. Baum and Company, which has ties to Stratfor, the private intelligence service that worked with the CIA (another former target of the group).
Did you know this: dazzlepod.com/stratfor/?emai…That Investment Bank is linked to Stratfor
— OpLastResort (@OpLastResort) February 19, 2013
In that attack, Anonymous also published the account data and transaction information of the bank’s users. The OpLastResort Twitter account says the death of Aaron Swartz is the reason behind the group’s focus to target the government with such ferocity. “This tragedy is basis for reform of computer crime laws and the overzealous prosecutors,” they write on the group’s Twitter bio.
But in an ironic twist, “Operation Last Resort” may have very unintended consequences.
Will this attack finally wake up the sleeping giant that is the United States government?
The threat of online security is very real, and the result of this newest action could truly galvanize lawmakers and previously unsure Congressmen to support the dangerous CISPA bill and introduce even harsher Internet laws. This kind of overreaction could cause more damage than the attacks themselves.
With this attack following on the heels of Anonymous defacing sites owned by MIT, the United States Sentencing Commission, the Federal Reserve and a failed hit on broadcasts of the State of the Union speech last week, the wheels for enacting Draconian laws may already be in motion. Anonymous, which champions Internet freedom, may have just pushed the Web down a dark shaft.
Making matters worse, is what’s still in the arsenal of the online activist group. Anonymous claims to possess “warheads,” codes to unlock encrypted files said to contain sensitive government data, allegedly obtained during the January 25th hack of the U.S. Sentencing Commission site.
Under Obama’s new cyberlaw mandate, these actions are all cyber threats and punishable by severe action. How far is the government willing to go to stop these attacks, and what will the ultimate effect on all our civil liberties be?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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