After hubris comes Anonymous

Discussion in 'Media' started by Mark Cabian, Feb 13, 2011.

  1. Mark Cabian Member

    Author: Andy Carling
    13 February 2011 - Issue : 922

    Two weeks ago, after Tunisians had their President fleeing, pausing for the traditional closing down sale at the National Bank, and the crowds of Egyptians took over Tahrir Square, I got an email from a PR company, titled “Now is the time for sustainable investment in the Middle East”.

    Of course it is. There are many more examples of inept PR, such as the deluge of emails and press releases that appear after 5pm on Fridays.

    There is also the cases of experts getting it wrong. We’ve all seen the example of a US police officer, demonstrating gun safety in a school, shooting himself in the foot, literally. Then there was the anti-kidnapping expert who went to Mexico to advise on how to avoid getting caught out and... got kidnapped.

    This week, we had another example of a PR failure, this time involving the group of internet activists known as Anonymous. Initially the group, who are based around an internet bulletin board, 4chan, were set up to attack pro-Scientology websites and gathered notoriety when they hacked a range of websites of companies they saw as attacking WikiLeaks.

    Anonymous, in reality a leaderless group of an untold number of hackers, can do some serious damage. Recent victims include PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, the Tunisian, Egyptian Government and the Italian Government. There are many more.

    To put it simply, they’re people you really shouldn’t mess with.

    Mr Aaron Barr did. He is, or possibly now, was, the Chief Security Officer of security services firm HBGary Federal. He claimed to have infiltrated the Anonymous groups, by connecting internet chat nicknames with Facebook profiles. He also said that he was going to sell this information to the FBI. All this was in a press release, picked up by the Financial Times. He also said that he would present the full details at the prestigious RSA Conference in the middle of the month.

    It didn’t take long for Anonymous to react.

    The first sign was a statement from the unknown activists, satirising Barr, claiming, “Mr. Barr has successfully broken through our over 9000 proxy field and into our entirely non-public and secret insurgent IRC lair, where he then smashed through our fire labyrinth with vigor, collected all the gold rings on the way, opened a 50 silver key chest to find Anon’s legendary hackers on steroids password.”

    Then they took down the HBGary website and replaced it with a statement, which included, “Your recent claims of ‘infiltrating’ Anonymous amuse us, and so do your attempts at using Anonymous as a means to garner press attention for yourself. How’s this for attention?”
    They also compromised the company’s internal systems, taking 66,000 documents and emails, which, helpfully, they included a download link to a file of all the documents on the hacked page.

    Other areas attacked were the companies Linked In profiles which were amended in... imaginative ways and Barr’s Twitter account, although they said he could have that back, if he posted a photo of himself with a shoe on his head.

    Looking at the RSA Conference speakers list, it seems Mr Barr won’t be going after all. Shame. Many people were looking forward to his presentation.

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