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Retaliation for the death of Aaron Swartz continues, but is it really doing any good

The quasi-leaderless hacker group Anonymous continues to batter government websites and databases in "OpLastResort" -- a campaign design to protest the death of internet activist Aaron Schwarz.  Mr. Swartz, who helped design the RSS standard, committed suicide last month after being harassed by federal prosecutors.

I. State Department, Federal Agents page hacked

The latest actions of OpLastResort echo those of many Anonymous campaigns.  They clearly catch attention and see some success, but raise serious questions about whether they are truly fulfilling their intended purpose.

In the latest hack Anonymous broke into U.S. State Department servers, stealing records of hundreds of staffers.  It published online State Department employees' names, email addresses and phone numbers [1][2].

Of course, the damage here is questionable -- while putting out this information in a central location certainly invites harassment of the employees, the information is no more than what would be found if you took a business trips to State Department locations and collected some business cards.

Anonymous also defaced a website "":

Federal Agents

Federal Agents page defaced

(The humorless chaps, however, didn't put clever messages in the page code)

The page is the landing spot for the National Association of Federal Agents (NAFA), which describes its mission, stating:

Founded in 1977, the National Association of Federal Agents is a non-profit, non-partisan legal service organization. Membership is open to the following groups: First, all current, retired, former, and future U.S. Treasury special agents, including those from IRS-CI, TIGTA, Treasury OIG and others, are eligible. Second, all current ,retired, former , and future special agents employed by an agency which at any time was subordinate to the U.S. treasury Department, are eligible (ATF, Secret Service, Customs, DEA and Coast Guard). In the future, others (FBI, INS, Postal, OIGs, etc.) may be admitted.

The rest of the page appears intact.

II. Bank Also Hacked

And in a third -- and arguably most impactful hack -- the group obtained and published bank transactions from George K. Baum & Comp., a U.S. investment banking firm, which Anonymous claims is affiliated with Stratfor.  Stratfor is a global intelligence firm that has worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Anonymous claims that Strafor has assisted the CIA in spying on U.S. citizens.

Granted, GKBM has a relatively small customer base, but still the fact that account numbers and names are exposed could leave certain individuals open to identity theft.  In that regard the operation embodies a sort of bloodless digital terrorism, which nonetheless may harm some individuals financially.

Anonymous surely feels that the "collateral" damage is justified and that those who support institutions that in turn work with the federal government -- which it views as corrupt -- are guilty by association.  However, others may disagree.

Anonymous's campaign may fuel new Orwellian government measures. 
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

And a danger, as ReadWrite's Adam Popescu eloquently states, is that the hacks may fuel federal efforts to hastily push through cybersecurity legislation, legislation that many fear has Orwellian surveillance and anti-privacy provisions.

Currently two bills -- the Senate's "Cybersecurity Act", bill, S.2105 [PDF], and the House's "Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection ActH.R. 3523 -- are on the table.  Last week President Obama published an executive order mandating a framework for voluntary corporate security risk sharing with federal agencies.  But the new cybersecurity bills go far beyond that relatively spineless order, and have privacy advocates concerned.

But much like the idealistic, anarchic disestablishmentarianism of the Arab Spring gave way to the consolidation of power by Egypt's Mohamed Morsi -- a man who critics claims is appointing himself "pharaoh" with limitless powers -- Anonymous may see its own anti-establishment ideals fueling the expansion of the kinds of abuses it most fears.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said:

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

While the lust for vengeance for the apparent injustice done to Mr. Swartz is understandable, and it may be gratifying to many to see damage done to the government, one has to wonder whether Gandhi's words hold true in the digital world much as they do in the physical world -- if violence begets violence.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is currently pursuing a criminal investigation into the recent hacking campaign by Anonymous.

Sources: Twitter [OpLastResort], [YourAnonNews], ReadWrite

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By chmilz on 2/22/2013 1:36:41 PM , Rating: 5
Gandhi was right. While I (cautiously) applaud some of the hijinks Anonymous is pulling, the end result will be draconian Big Brother type legislation rammed through to thwart it, at the expense of the innocent.

The public needs to stand up and demand reform. Letters. Phone calls. Millions of them. Get those politicians to either make the changes or ensure they get voted out.

RE: Resources
By Micronite on 2/22/2013 1:47:31 PM , Rating: 3
Wait, are you for or against legislation?

RE: Resources
By Labotomizer on 2/22/2013 1:55:18 PM , Rating: 3
Sounds as if he's for legislation in a legal and properly handled manor to make proper reforms to laws that are overly harsh. There are right ways and wrong ways to go about getting action and Anonymous should be trying to garner public support for the types of movements the OP stated. Unfortunately that's not what is happening. While I think they are correct to protest it is what can be considered violent protests. Which will only service to make matters worse.

RE: Resources
By chmilz on 2/22/2013 2:16:09 PM , Rating: 2
Pro-legislation that makes information more free to the public.

Anti-legislation that, in an effort to fight back against hackers and hacktivists, continues the downward spiral of the US into a police state that strips you of your rights while gently patting your back, telling you "it's OK, daddy knows best".

RE: Resources
By anactoraaron on 2/22/2013 2:23:10 PM , Rating: 5
The public needs to stand up and demand reform. Letters. Phone calls. Millions of them. Get those politicians to either make the changes or ensure they get voted out.

That's a great sentiment, but since our entire government and political structure is comprised of the two party system, voting anyone out makes little difference.

It will not be until we no longer have a party system that real change will occur. People will then be forced to be informed on who to vote for and politicians will run because they are the best and brightest that this country has to offer, unlike now where only the richest campaigns/candidates stand a shot to win and all of them have degrees in political science (almost all of them have a BS in BS). Where are the economy majors at when we need a budget? Ah, that's right... they're at the universities making televised suggestions on CNN. You can't vote for either party and expect anything to change. Things will just get worse no matter who is elected to congress or the POTUS.

RE: Resources
By NellyFromMA on 2/22/13, Rating: 0
RE: Resources
By anactoraaron on 2/22/2013 8:11:56 PM , Rating: 3
It's not that they don't care, it's that they do little to inform themselves. Like you said, they're lazy. But the people of this country are passionate about what they believe. The two party system right now is doing their best to distract the masses by being divisive - turning brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, so they can continue to remain in control.

It's all about the two party system and the games they are playing on Joe Q Public. The masses are so blinded with passion they fail to see the flaws in their own arguments - and are unable to process such flaws when they are pointed out to them.
One side is: "Obama is great and is helping people across the country who aren't as privileged as others." OK. Explain the drone program and extending warrantless wiretapping and other provisions in the patriot act that haven't been repealed or how Obama has gone after whisleblowers and attacked the press (filing motions to reveal journalists' sources) and how that helps or is good for our country.
The other side right now has an identity crisis and most of the talking points are utter nonsense but most of the focus these days is on Bengazzi. "The American people deserve to know why these 4 people were killed and what was covered up." OK. Remember the Iraq war? How many Americans died because of what can be best described as a "colossal intelligence failure." How was it again that so many politicians were for that war anyway? If you ask me we need to find the real truth about that first.

The two party system is bought and paid for and it's time for them to go. How can this happen? I don't know, maybe not in my lifetime, but hopefully something changes.

RE: Resources
By TSS on 2/23/2013 3:53:16 AM , Rating: 1
Bullshit. If a child tries to put his fingers in a socket you force him not to do so.

If a nation can't seem to demand change even when it's killing itself, you force the people to think about that. The consequences of not doing so will be far worse.

RE: Resources
By Reclaimer77 on 2/23/2013 10:53:07 AM , Rating: 1
The nation just doubled down on stupidity and economic suicide by re-electing the most inept, corrupt, and destructive Administration in the last 80 years. If you think a few hackers are going to turn this mindset around, well, I envy your optimism.

RE: Resources
By anactoraaron on 2/23/2013 4:49:02 PM , Rating: 5
If you ask me, they have elected the most inept, corrupt, wasteful, worthless, stupid, and destructive administrations since Clinton left (not that he wasn't without his faults).

I don't understand you sometimes Reclaimer... it seems sometimes you are knowledgeable, but ignoring the mistakes/corruption/tyranny of the Bush/Chaney administration (Iraq war, 9/11, Katrina, Patriot Act, Gitmo, Start of Homeland Security and TSA overkill, etc) while focusing only on what this current potus has done is baffling. I get that you are a R or a C or are the red gang but the "my shit don't stink" logic doesn't work.

Both sides MUST go for things to be better here. No party system. End Citizens United and the corruption/bribery it allows.

RE: Resources
By tng on 2/23/2013 5:29:30 PM , Rating: 2
Iraq war, 9/11, Katrina, Patriot Act, Gitmo, Start of Homeland Security and TSA overkill
I don't think that RC will disagree that allot of what you say above is/was bad, but what he thinks is that while Bush did allot of things he didn't like, Obama has just continued and tried to expand things like the Patriot Act.

On 12/31/11, a day where there are more journalists on vacation than any other of the year, Obama signed the NDAA, same as every year, but on that bill was language that would have allowed the US military to arrest American Citizens on US soil simply for saying the wrong thing. The language would have allowed the military to detain said citizen forever without trial or legal counsel.

Ironically, this little bit of evil was put into the NDAA by I think John MaCain.

Where was the outrage over this in the media, or Left-leaning groups? There was no outrage like the Patriot Act, fortunately groups like the ACLU and concerned journalists took this to court and last year a NY Federal Judge struck down the law as unconstitutional.

His point is that no one is paying attention to what is going on with this Admin, while if it were a Republican Admin, this would have been front page news for weeks, people would have protested in the streets.

RE: Resources
By NellyFromMA on 2/23/2013 11:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
Children and adults are different.

RE: Resources
By bh192012 on 2/22/2013 6:34:37 PM , Rating: 3
Don't vote for anyone in either of those two parties, get as many friends and family to follow. Try not to convince yourself that voting for the lesser of two evils isn't evil.

RE: Resources
By mjv.theory on 2/22/2013 2:27:15 PM , Rating: 3
Get those politicians to either make the changes or ensure they get voted out.

You can't vote them ALL out. The trick is to find enough politicians that aren't morally corrupt, which for the most part, is one the defining qualities of a politician or anyone generally, who is seeking power.

RE: Resources
By NellyFromMA on 2/22/13, Rating: -1
RE: Resources
By Uncle on 2/23/2013 3:00:27 AM , Rating: 2
For two weeks its all about the Chinese, now were back to Anon. Lets just press on and go after the Chinese, they definitely can cause more damage then Anon has. The Chinese are a major threat, Anon is like a flea on a dog, irritating. Between the two I'm rooting for ANON.I like the irritation they cause certain sectors of government and corporations, and as we have been told so often by government officials, their will always be collateral damage.

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