computers & computing

Thoughts on the “war” within Anonymous

So, this interesting little article from Ars Technica came up on my Digg feed, and I felt like commenting on it – and I felt like commenting on it outside of a forum site like

In a nutshell, a turf-war has started among Anonymous. One faction favors the group’s current anarchic “Anyone who wants to be part of anon can be part of anon, and use our big DDOS Of DOOM” (no, they don’t actually call it that). The other faction feels that Anon should be limited to those whose Kung Fu, if you will, is strong enough. Prove your worthiness, you are admitted into the ranks of Anon. So, this second group has basically pwned Anon’s two main IRC chat rooms, as the guy running the Way of the Closed Fist faction, if you will, was the guy who was handling domain registration.

Now, I’m torn on Anon. I love it when Anon does stuff like Project Chanology – when they’re not doing the DDOS part. However, I’m basically not a fan of the DDOS of DOOM, and the fact that the Closed Fist faction’s apparent qualifier for entry is “How big is your botnet” kind of makes it clear that Closed Fist is more about the cyber extortion and less about the cyber activism.

It also bears noting that according to The Fine Article, HBGary was able to identify the head of Closed Fist (“Ryan”) in their records, which leads to the possibility that Closed Fist could run into the problem that it, by its exclusiveness, would lose some of the anonymity that protected the rest of Anonymous.

This isn’t to say that the rest of Anonymous (which, to continue the Jade Empire analogy, I’ll call Open Palm) will disappear. While some tech columnists are speculating that Anonymous is no more, I’ll say that the rumors of their death are greatly exaggerated. I have no doubt Anonymous will persist. Anon is basically the real-world equivalent of a Stand Alone Complex, and frankly, as long as there is a right to privacy or a perceived right to privacy, then Anon will persist.

A quick aside to explain my analogy: in the console and computer Role-Playing Game Jade Empire (by BioWare) instead of having characters have a straight dichotomy between Good and Evil, they had it between the Way of the Closed Fist (which favored strong, aggressive behavior, and considered mercy to be an act of weakness), and between the Way of the Open Palm (which was relatively more zen and passive).

The question is, what happens to Closed Fist. I’m concerned that “Ryan” and the members of Closed Fist are getting over-confident, and may end up suffering the fate of the Masters of Deception. Masters of Deception were an exclusive group, like Closed Fist. Members had to demonstrate their skill before joining, like Closed Fist. MoD also brought a great deal of attention to itself through its “hacker war”/escalating  (and more visible) pranks – and Anon’s DDOS attacks against the Church of Scientology, Playstation Network, and other groups which they’ve felt the whim to strike against has kept them in the public eye.

Additionally, there is the fact that the identities of notable members of Closed Fist are out there. HBGary claimed to have that information – if it was accurate, then if law enforcement wanted to round up Closed Fist (or wronged parties wanted to file lawsuits against members of Closed Fist), it would become considerably easier to find out whom to file papers against.

As it is, this is a developing story, so presumably we’ll learn more about all this as things go on, though likely some of this will stay within Anonymous.

Anyway, if you’re interested in learning more about the Masters of Deception and what lead to their legal problems, I strongly recommend the book of the same name by Michelle Slatalla.

Masters of Deception: The Gang That Ruled Cyberspace