Five Things CIOs Need to Know about Anonymous

1. Nobody's in charge. "We are Anonymous. We are legion." This cryptic slogan is used by a band of hackers who call themselves Anonymous. Active for nearly a decade now, the group catapulted into prominence in the past year with attacks on PayPal, Visa, HBGary and Sony. Often called a hacking collective, Anonymous is essentially a movement. There is no central authority. From time to time, participants band together to launch "operations," led by a small group of trusted associates. The operation leaders write up orders and invite anyone who is interested to participate. Operations can happen online or in the real world.

2. Their attacks seem random. Roughly stated, Anonymous cares about digital freedom and exposing hypocrisy and corruption. Motives for their attacks may seem obscure to upper-level management, but they often make sense to geeks. The group first gained prominence for attacking the Church of Scientology and the Recording Industry Association of America. When PayPal, MasterCard and Visa stopped processing payments for WikiLeaks late last year, Anonymous saw this as a threat to the free exchange of information and attacked.

3. They're capable. Early on, Anonymous's hacking didn't amount to much more than the occasional distributed denial-of-service attack. Lately it's shown a scarier, more technically adept side. In February, members broke into HBGary's mail server and website, ultimately posting tens of thousands of the company's private emails online. Subsequent attacks linked to Anonymous, and its spin-off group Lulz Security, demonstrated mastery of attacks such as SQL injection, social engineering and controlling botnets. A favorite attack is to "dox" a company they don't like: This means breaking in and exposing the personal information of corporate officers and their families.

4. They're international. Although English is the language of choice for most communications, alleged members have been arrested in Holland, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the United States. And Anonymous has encouraged spinoff groups globally.

5. The P.R. motivates them. Many of those who join Anonymous see themselves as hacktivists--a new breed of online protester whose activities gum up cyberspace in much the same way massive demonstrations gum up city streets. The ultimate goal seems to be changing public perception more than disrupting business. PayPal, MasterCard and Visa experienced some Web downtime, but payment processing was unaffected by the attacks. The real pressure comes from the news stories. Nobody wants their brand linked to a hacker attack.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags security

More about PayPalRecording Industry Association of AmericaSonyVisa

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Robert McMillan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place