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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 "FederalAgents.org":

Federal Agents
(Before)

Federal Agents page defaced
(After)

(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
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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RE: weak
By hero_of_zero on 2/23/2013 2:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
What he did was break term of use with a company he had contact for and the company didn't lay any charges.
But the feds found a law buried in the books that they went after him after for.This law technically allows the feds to charge to for breaking "term of use" that u agree to example laying on you info for any sites u sign up for etc.Example they "could" charge you for jail breaking you phone because you broke the terms of use with the said company that made your phone.

Anyways if you did some read up on his case u be going wtf.Fox news don't count.


RE: weak
By xti on 2/23/2013 4:18:58 PM , Rating: 2
dont drink the kool aid. he knew what he was doing.


RE: weak
By hero_of_zero on 2/23/2013 5:59:00 PM , Rating: 2
What kool aid.HE broke the "term of use" of the company he worked for.He hooked his laptop into the server and copied files of academic journal articles from JSTOR.The company he worked for didn't lay charges.


RE: weak
By Argon18 on 2/25/2013 10:34:03 AM , Rating: 2
He's still a coward. He did something immoral and/or illegal, and rather than deal with the consequences like a man, he decided to do a Ctrl-C on his life. A waste of a human, really.


RE: weak
By xti on 2/25/2013 2:38:06 PM , Rating: 1
if i take books from a library, and put them on the street for someone to pick up, its stealing and there are $ damages.

he knew what he was doing. stop being a hipster and trying to find a loophole. then he bitched out and took his life. if he truly believed what he was doing should be the norm, we wouldn't have taken the easy way out, and paved the road for whatever he thought was right.


"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)














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