Cannibalistic infighting is currently threatening to consume the collective following recent attacks on Sony.
Anonymous declared war on Sony back when GeoHot was still in court, so you’d think the group would be celebrating the recent security breach with the PSN. Strangely, however, Anonymous leaders have attempted to distance the group from the PSN attacks, and recent actions now seem to be threatening to destroy Anonymous entirely. A splinter cell of disgruntled Anonymous members has launched an internal attack against the collective and are striving to bring down a leadership that they say has lost touch with the democratic principles that informed the loose organization.
The resistance is being led by a hacker named ‘Ryan,’ a former network staff member for AnonOps.net and AnonOps.ru. Ryan has seized control of both websites and leaked the IP addresses of hundreds of members of the collective, saying that his actions were “regrettable but necessary.”
“The only way to make things safe is to make users aware how insecure it is,” Ryan told thinq_.
The splinter group says that Anonymous has become too centralized and that a cabal of approximately 10 self-appointed leaders – Ryan points a finger at a hacker dubbed ‘Owen’ – have abused their power within the collective. The problems apparently started when the leadership became more interested in headlines than principles and engaged in attacks simply to generate more media attention.
"Their power was wasted on stupid operations. I was never a fan of OpSony, for instance," said ‘Garrett,’ another member of the resistance.
According to Ryan, the goal is to bring down Anonymous and disperse the user base to allow members to move in a more productive direction.
“I hope that people will spread out... Users should find new groups, new causes,” said Ryan. “AnonOps just won't be the flagship."
Two Anonymous members familiar with the details of the situation have since responded to Ryan’s claims. They label Ryan as a bully while insisting that the leadership channel was home to far more than ten users and that the hive structure of Anonymous guaranteed a democratic forum.
“Like the speaker of parliament, we didn't make laws but we ensured an environment existed in which they could be made,” one of the Anons told thinq_. “So most of the talk in there was network maintenance, server issues, floods, attacks on us and how to counteract them, etc…If you wanted to start your own operation on AnonOps, all you have to do is create a new channel for it, register it, and get people interested.”
The two Anons go on to say that leaking IP addresses represents a betrayal of the Anonymous code of conduct.
“I don't see how anyone could claim to be working for the general good of Anonymous, by putting hundreds of Anons in danger of being arrested,” one said. “Most of the people on that list aren't operators, they are just ordinary users who aren't involved in administrative drama between server owners. It was completely unfair to them in my opinion, to use them in this way. I believe that he is trying to damage the network as much as possible.”
Anonymous operations have temporarily moved to a separate AnonOps website, although the leadership hopes to wrest control from Ryan even if the task proves difficult. In the meantime, the warring factions could at least agree that Anonymous was not responsible for the attack on Sony and the PSN.
"I don't believe Anonymous people were responsible for the Sony PSN outage," said Garrett, although he added that, "Even if they were, it was planned behind closed doors. No one's going to admit to that. It's way too hardcore. The FBI will be involved. I doubt if that will ever come out.”
“I believe the hackers were simply opportunistic,” said one of the leaders. “They saw that Sony was involved in a battle with Anonymous. They knew they could easily do this unnoticed. And they knew that if they left an Anonymous slogan ("We are legion") on the server, they could shift focus from themselves.”
Those lines of reasoning certainly make sense, so the members of Anonymous probably don’t know much more about the PSN situation than the rest of us and I wouldn’t expect to learn anything new on that front. As an observer, however, I find all the infighting to be deliciously ironic. Anonymous definitely fell in love with publicity – someone had to write those eloquently juvenile mission statements – and the leak of IP addresses is yet another reminder that actions still have consequences on the Internet.
It’ll also be interesting to see what happens to Anonymous. It’s basically impossible to eradicate the collective – the structure is deliberately fluid and they can always reconvene somewhere else – but they may not be as eager for headlines in the immediate future.