Confirmed: Key Activities by “Anonymous” Masterminded by Small Groups of Decision-Makers

In a recent post I  made on “Anonymous”, commenter “mightygoose” said:

i would agree with matt, having delved into various IRC channels and metaphorically walked among anonymous,i would say that they are fully aware that they have no head, no leadership, and while you can lambast their efforts as temporary nuisance, couldnt the same be said for any form of protest (UK students for example) and the effective running of government.

I responded:

They are dependent on tools and infrastructure provided by a small, elite group. If it weren’t for this infrastructure, 99% of them wouldn’t even have a clue about how to even launch a DDoS attack.

A week ago in the Financial Times:

However, a senior US member of Anonymous, using the online nickname Owen and evidently living in New York (Xetra: A0DKRK – news) , appears to be one of those targeted in recent legal investigations, according to online communications uncovered by a private security researcher.

A co-founder of Anonymous, who uses the nickname Q after the character in James Bond, has been seeking replacements for Owen and others who have had to curtail activities, said researcher Aaron Barr, head of security services firm HBGary Federal.

Mr Barr said Q and other key figures lived in California and that the hierarchy was fairly clear, with other senior members in the UK, Germany, Netherlands, Italy and Australia.

Of a few hundred participants in operations, only about 30 are steadily active, with 10 people who “are the most senior and co-ordinate and manage most of the decisions”, Mr Barr told the Financial Times. That team works together in private internet relay chat sessions, through e-mail and in Facebook groups. Mr Barr said he had collected information on the core leaders, including many of their real names, and that they could be arrested if law enforcement had the same data.

Many other investigators have also been monitoring the public internet chats of Anonymous, and agree that a few seasoned veterans of the group appear to be steering much of its actions.

Yes… just like I already said in December. There may be many participants in Anonymous that would like to believe that they have no leadership, no head, but the fact is that any sustained and effective effort of any kind requires leadership.

It’s funny how some people like to portray Anonymous as some all-wise decentralized collective, but like I said, if /b/ were shut down, they would all scatter like a bunch of ants. Anonymous has the weakness that it isn’t unified by any coherent philosophy. This is not any kind of intellectual group. In contrast, groups like Transhumanism, Bayesianism, and Atheism are bound together by central figures, ideas, texts, and physical meetings.

Comments

  1. Jordan

    “the fact is that any sustained and effective effort of any kind requires leadership.”

    The recent Egyptian revolution?

    “Anonymous has the weakness that it isn’t unified by any coherent philosophy.”

    Whether it’s a weakness or not they appear to be collectively effective on a scale not matched by Atheist/Transhuman/Bayesian groups.

  2. Not anonymous

    This post is wrong – the dichotomy between decentralization and elite leadership is false, and Anonymous is the perfect counterexample. Yes, there are a few elites at the top of the anonymous food chain, but they tend to in-fight and get turned over every few months. Anonymous is a self-organized, ad-hoc organization. It’s “led” by a few people because that’s the most efficient way of getting things done, but the efficacy of these “leaders” is completely dependent on them reflecting the will of sufficient numbers of the group at large. The operations they successfully organize are only those which catch fire with enough people. Moreover, most of these operations make use of memes that weren’t created by the leaders, but emerged from the midst of Anonymous, or elsewhere. And when one of the “leaders” falls, there are plenty of others with the appropriate level of expertise and resources waiting to step into the power vacuum. Claims that “/b/” can be shut down, as if there’s just one and not hundreds, or that Anonymous was “founded”, or that a particular small group of raid-coordinators are the “leaders” of Anonymous, or that lack of philosophical coherence is a weakness among a group that has none of the unity constraints of traditional modes of organization is laughable.

    BTW, a similarly organized group of people is the wikipedia editors.

  3. Jay

    I suppose it hadn’t occurred to you that new leadership will arise eventually.

    Did the Egyptian people have leadership?

    Nope.

    Did they shut down their goverment when their goverment shut down their Internet?

    Ayup.

  4. I said SUSTAINED movement. The Egyptian revolution was 18 days. Congrats to them for achieving so much in so little time. 18 days is not a long time. Mass movements come and go. A “phenomenon”, however, lives for decades, centuries, or millennia.

    So, WHERE is the evidence that what Barr said is unreliable? I don’t see it in that ArsTechnica post. Clearly Anonymous is more than a few dozen people, but a group of a few dozen people is necessary to take the initiative on any major projects besides 1) DDoS, 2) spamming, 3) info-gathering. It’s an army, led by leaders. People not in the organized army are just playing along for fun and have no major impact.

    Yes, maybe Barr is stupid, but he’s still right about there being leaders in this particular action. There may be new leaders here and there, but don’t militaries change their leaders as necessary as well?

    Claims that “/b/” can be shut down, as if there’s just one and not hundreds

    There are actually tens of thousands, but my points still stand. I said IF /b/ were shut down, Anonymous would lose its major source of “hacktivists” (as if they call themselves such). Certainly /b/ would have been shut down if it continued to allow certain types of images, and it isn’t shut down due to… top-down rules by “mootykins”.

    or that Anonymous was “founded”

    It was founded in raids on Habbo Hotel. Pool’s closed. The pool contains AIDS.

    The basic phenomenon is the same as the Habbo raids, just on a larger scale and focusing on more relevant targets.

    or that a particular small group of raid-coordinators are the “leaders” of Anonymous

    They likely were the leaders of that particular effective action, yes.

    or that lack of philosophical coherence is a weakness among a group

    If you read thousands of pages of the history of revolutions you see this is obviously true.

  5. Mephistopheles

    Wow. A lot can change in a week, I guess. The real story here isn’t to do with Anonymous and their leadership. It’s about Barr and his employers incompetence and potentially criminal behavior.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/02/11/campaigns

  6. That companies would engage in illegal cyber-warfare is not really surprising to me, nor a big story.

  7. Mephistopheles

    You showed me.

  8. Tommy Lawrence

    where’s the evidence that barr said anything correct or worth mentioning?

    one hearsay is another man’s bias

  9. Extropian oldtimer

    Transhumanism’s greatest failure – truly an Epic Fail – is that, even though it has been around for decades, it has been unable to secure unlimited funding for AGI research. As a recent open letter stated, “Unbelievable.”

  10. Although I think you’re mostly much right about the power of Anonymous (for now, at least), I’m pretty sure you chose the worst possible example. Although it could be some kind of clever fake-out to discredit the report, the fact that Anon leaked his entire report including names kind of calls the veracity of said report into doubt. But then they took down Barr’s company’s website, and the parent company’s, and stole 60k emails. Yes it was mostly DDoS, probably done by botnets controlled by one or two members, so it’s not technically that impressive or particularly frightening. But when the president of a major security company has to go on IRC and beg 15 year old hackers to stop what they’re doing (and when they respond with ridiculous requests like firing Barr or donating to Bradley Manning’s defense fund), you have to recognize that something of at least passing interest is going on.

    Taking down a few websites, or even being able to take down any website they want, is pretty unimpressive if it’s Anon’s best trick. Like you say, it requires tools and infrastructure that probably only a few people deserve credit for. But there are a lot of clever, angsty kids working wit them, and their ability to do things like get private information (“Dox”) on people can be pretty impressive.

    Also, while they may not have the kind of unifying philosophy that Atheists or Bayesians have, the do have at least something: Lulz. Your’re obviously well acquainted with internet culture, so I won’t bother linking to or defining the term, but for anyone else it’s basically mean spirited jokes and pranks (insert trollface). This may not be enough for them to put their lives in danger, which is certainly a strike against how unifying it can be as a common cause, but it’s not too much more nebulous than Transhumanism these days. Some people may be more committed to Transhumanism, such as yourself and other people who are actually working toward or donating money to solving transhuman problems, but do you really have that much in common philosophically with, say, this guy: http://www.transalchemy.com/ ?

  11. Dexter Sinister

    My hair is a bird.

    Your argument is invalid.

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