[ISN] The Technology Snob’s Favorite Hacker Group

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2014/12/anonymous_vs_lulzsec_the_technology_snob_s_favorite_hacker_group.html By Gabriella Coleman Slate.com Dec. 8 2014 This essay is adapted from Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, by Gabriella Coleman, published by Verso. On the evening of Thursday, Dec. 11, Coleman will be discussing her book with the ACLU’s Christopher Soghoian at a free Future Tense happy hour event in Washington, D.C. For more information and to RSVP, click here. Here is a question without an easy answer: Who is Anonymous? I have spent more than half a decade spending copious time with Anonymous on chat rooms, during protests, and interviewing participants. Still this question has no easy or at least straightforward answer. Various groups of hackers, technologists, activists, geeks, and unknown parties use the name to organize diverse genres of collective action. These have ranged from humiliating hacks against security firms to technological support for Occupiers or Arab revolutionaries. In some instances, a multitude participates, as was the case with one of their most famous interventions: Operation Payback from December 2010. Anonymous targeted the websites of PayPal and MasterCard after they ceased accepting donations for WikiLeaks. Anonymous has also involved smaller and more exclusive hacker groups such as LulzSec and Antisec. LulzSec—a crew of renegade hackers who broke away from Anonymous—engaged in a startling 50-day catalytic run that began in early May 2011 and abruptly ended in mid-June, soon after one of their own, Sabu, was apprehended and flipped in less than 24 hours by the FBI. Among LulzSec’s targets were Sony Music Japan, Sony Pictures, Sony BMG (Netherlands and Belgium), PBS, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Senate, the U.K. Serious Organized Crime Agency, Bethesda Softworks, AOL, and AT&T. Despite the avalanche of activity—and numerous intrusions—LulzSec, when compared with Anonymous, was more manageable and contained, at least from an organizational perspective. Its members also hacked with impunity, finally making good on the 2007 Fox News claim that Anonymous was comprised of “hackers on steroids.” Even the haughtiest of security hackers—those technologists whose skills are channeled toward fortifying computer security—who had earlier snubbed Anonymous cheered on LulzSec. Old-school black hats lived vicariously through LulzSec, in awe of its swagger, its fuck-you-anything-goes attitude, and its bottomless appetite for exposing the pathetic state of Internet security. One Anon Anon (as members of Anonymous call themselves), also once active in the black-hat scene, put it this way in an interview with me: “LulzSec seemed to have a sort of fully formed mythos straight out of the gate while other hacker groups like Cult of the Dead Cow took decades to achieve that.” […]