Anonymous … More Harm than Good?

When I think of a traditional war, I think of one that consists of tanks and ground troops engaged in battle, which usually results in unfortunate and numerous casualties. With the current military campaign being waged against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for its terrorist acts against many Muslims, Christians and other captured hostages, there is yet another type of war being waged against them. A cyber war. The Hacker group known only as “Anonymous” started its campaign against ISIS when an Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account posted that it was declaring a full-scale cyber war on ISIS in response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting massacre in Paris, France.

Dawson Blog PhotoAnonymous has held to this claim, hacking its way into over 800 Twitter accounts, 12 Facebook pages, and more than 50 emails of ISIS terrorist members so far, according to reports. The group has also shut down various social media sites operated or affiliated with ISIS that are used to recruit volunteer fighters from the around the world. I discovered a recent YouTube video by Anonymous in which the group stated, “You [ISIS] will be treated like a virus, and we are the cure. We own the Internet.”

But I wonder about the group actually waging this cyber war. I feel that Anonymous is trying to show the world that they are fighting the battle in their own way, but to benefit their own propaganda strategy. Anonymous has been known to launch cyber-attacks on police departments across the country, one of the most recent being the Ferguson Missouri Police Department, targeted for their aggressive behavior in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. One fact that surprised and concerned me about this case was that the group was able to hack the Ferguson Chief of Police’s cell phone and use the camera on it to watch the Chief’s son asleep at home. Anonymous has also conducted cyber-attacks on churches and other US government departments that it doesn’t agree with. Ironically, now Anonymous finds itself fighting on what they say is “America’s” side.

I believe that on one hand many would argue that Anonymous is a hero for what it’s doing to bring down ISIS. On the other, I would say that this brings up cause for concern, because not knowing the full potential and ability of Anonymous, which has worked against our government and others before, puts all of us at risk – especially as the group claims to “control the Internet.” If that’s true then the Internet, and the billions who use it, are at the mercy of a hacktivist group, even if it is working with the general public to stop a common enemy at the moment.

By Rufus Dawson, Graduate Student

Master of Arts in Emerging Media

Loyola University Maryland

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