Anonymous and the Age of Cyberwars

Anonymous. There’s a 99.9% chance you’ve heard of them by now. But for those who haven’t, this article will tell you all you need to know about the hacktivist collective and the amazing work they’re doing in standing up to corrupt governments.


Founded in 2003 on the website 4chan, this online social community at first revolved around carrying out pranks called ‘raids’ in online chat rooms and causing harmless disruptions. It wasn’t until 4chan took action against these ‘raids’ that the Anonymous group was thus born made up of a decentralized movement of like-minded individuals whose aims became more than about harmless fun, and more about activism, and working towards political ends.


The hacktivist group gained traction in June 2020. After the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer, many demonstrations across the US started to take place protesting decades of police brutality and the institutional racism so deeply entrenched within American society.


It was here that they started to work towards political means. By carrying out several cyberattacks against the US, including taking down police department websites and later publishing a video detailing the Minneapolis police department’s violence and corruption, the Hacktivist collective made it clear that no government was safe. Not even the US.


Their video was viewed nearly 3M times, but not long afterwards, a lot of accounts claiming to be ‘Anonymous’ started to circulate around Twitter showing just how powerful the hacktivist collective had become.


After two years of radio silence. Anonymous are back and this time they’ve launched fresh new attacks. This time their enemy is the Iranian regime, the Islamic Republic.


To understand why they’re targeting Iran, we need to understand the context. On 16th September, a 22-year-old Iranian woman by the name of Mahsa Amini was arrested after not wearing her hijab ‘correctly’. She was dragged violently by Iran’s morality police and taken into custody, where she was brutally beaten up by police officers. She suffered severe trauma to the head and fell into a coma after arriving at the hospital. Not long after, she sadly passed away.


What has followed is a series of protests in Iran’s cities with many women taking to the streets chanting Mahsa’s name and taking off their hijabs denouncing the country's strict and oppressive mandatory hijab laws. Like many protests that have taken place in the past in Iran, the country's corrupt security forces have responded to the protests through violence and force. In the two weeks since the protests started, Amnesty International has reported that 50 Iranians have been killed and over 500 arrested.


So where does Anonymous come into this?


On 20th September, the hacktivist collective announced on Twitter that they would be launching a cyber operation against the Iranian government


The hackers then posted a series of tweets announcing that they had hacked Fars News Agency, an Iranian news agency which aligns itself entirely with the Iranian regime and is solely loyal to the country's leader.


Later on the 23rd of September, Anonymous posted a video on YouTube showing that the Iranian regime has participated in cruelty, torture and murder of its citizens for decades since its establishment in 1979.


The group’s cyberwar against Iran did not stop there. They have gone on to hack Iran’s central bank and state televisions. As well as hijacking 500 CCTV cameras within the country, a tactic that will surely limit the regime in tracking down civilians to arrest and prosecute. Most prominently they have also hacked Iran’s general assembly leaking thousands of personal details about government officials including phone numbers and house addresses. This has prompted many Iranians within Iran and the diaspora to hold these regime loyalists to account urging them to condemn the torture and killing committed by the regime.


There is no doubt that the hacktivist collective are very skilled hackers. The scale that they have been able to hack so many governmental websites and even the bank is astonishing, to say the least. Which is why I am inclined to argue that we have entered a new age of cyberwars led by expert hackers who put their skills into achieving political means.



So, whatever your opinion on Anonymous or hacking. It’s clear that they are here to stay and may be one of the few ways if not the only way to hold repressive governments to account and limit them in carrying out systematic violence towards their own civilians.

 

Edited and Reviewed by Tanish Bagga.

 

References/ Further Reading:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/9/21/anonymous-hacks-iran-state-websites-after-mahsa-aminis-death


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