It would seem that the hive mind of Anonymous does listen to good advice, but not after engaging in a week-long campaign of Distributed Denial of Service attacks against perceived enemies of WikiLeaks. These DDoS attacks against Amazon, PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard, in addition to some other sites, were largely coordinated through Twitter messages. Using software called Low-Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), participants would select a web target and “Fire!” by flooding the server with packet requests. However, this assault on corporate websites was largely ineffectual, and possibly counter productive, and Anonymous came to realize it.
But not before the rush of power caused them to misinterpret their role. Following a few days of DDoS attacks on various sites, Twitter finally shut down the user Operation_Payback. Members of Anonymous were incensed and declared that their free speech had been assailed, and pledged to launch DDoS against Twitter itself. I already felt that punitive DDoS attacks were not beneficial, however I felt this was a huge affront to the very principals of free speech.
Anonops Tweeted, “If we can’t have freedom of speech, no one can!”
I sent a series of tweets from my MAX AXIOM Twitter account:
@anonops Don’t attack twitter, that’s OUR free speech!!!!! #wikileaks
@anonops #wikileaks You weren’t censored! you were caught engaging in DDOS attacks. Don’t use Free Speech as a bullet proof vest!
@anonops !!!!! don’t be so foolish .. stop punitive strikes! Twitter is how we share info in INFO WAR. #wikileaks
Within a few minutes Anon withdrew Twitter from the target list, however I was still concerned that DDoS attacks would be misconstrued. It is, after all, being called “cyberwar,” and the paticipants of DDoS attacks are being called “hackers.”
What concerned me is that DDoS attacks, while an attention-getting form of digital protest, make everyone look bad. Anoymous acted predictibly, and proved the Establishment’s point: Anoymous internet is dangerous for business. This will only be added to the rhetoric of politicians who seek to dismantle the free and open Internet.
There is also the inherent betrayal of principal. “If we can’t have free speech, no one can” type ideology is quite troubling, and there seems to be a lack of respect for what Free Speech means – inclusiveness. Even liars, cheats, crooks, and corporations get their own websites.
Anonymous’ contempt for average Internet users was most visible in the move to DDoS attack Twitter. I was left to wonder what the collateral damage is to the Internet or business community that relies on PayPal, Visa, MasterCard? Is this collateral damage meant to wake up the masses? Or will it just make “Hackers” look like bad guys?
Thankfully, Operation Payback came to the epiphany, and declared DDoS to be little more than an annoyance. Yesterday Anonymous announced the only way to win is through information, pledging themselves to the infowar with what they call Operation Leakspin. The objective is to raise awareness about the information revealed in “Cablegate” which is a much, much more productive use of online time than packet flooding webservers.