On January 26, 2013, USSC.Gov was hacked by a person or persons claiming to be members of Anonymous. The hackers named the attack Operation Last resort and they posted a moving tribute to fallen internet activist Aaron Swartz, plus a list of demands for the United States government. The message warned the government that unless they began to respect Human Rights, freedom, and Democracy, damaging information would be revealed to the American people. Now, a week later, another member of the internet’s activist community, Anonymous X-SecT, is warning the public that a government intelligence agency was responsible for Operation Last Resort.
Included in the message posted on USSC.Gov was a link to download a file the hackers claimed contained encrypted information that would create world wide chaos and destroy many powerful public figures. As with Julian Assange’s notorious “insurance file,” the data will only accessible if and when a key is released to unlock the file. So far, as with the WikiLeaks files, there has been no further word about the secret file or what it may contain.
After we first became aware of the claims made by Anonymous X-SecT, we decided to investigate. We quickly discovered the group maintains a large and rather public presence on various websites and they were by no means shy about their disdain for the people who hacked USSC.Gov.
Anonymous X-SecT has several serious concerns about Operation Last Resort, beginning with their doubts that real Anonymous members would actually ask the public to download locked files. The potential risk to anyone who is foolish enough to trust a file from a link posted by self proclaimed hackers on a public website run by the United States government is enormous. While many of our readers are already aware of the risks, we will go over them briefly.
A large percentage of internet users have experienced first hand the total mayhem that can occur when you download a file from an unknown source. Your computer may end up being used in a network of servers used to spam porn emails by the millions. You may have permitted a rogue’s gallery of internet criminals to access to all your personal information, including your credit card numbers, Paypal account and online bank accounts. Of course, there is even the remote possibility that if you follow the link from USSC.Gov to the download, you may be added to a wide assortment of government databases, including those maintained by the CIA, NSA, DOJ and the FBI.
The people at Anonymous X-SecT have a long list of issues with Operation Last Resort, which they outlined on their website:
“We are getting many questions on facebook and Xero is getting many via this websites contact form regarding Operation Last Resort. While we cannot give you direct proof this is a propaganda operation we can give you the reasons why it appears as such.”
“1) On Sunday I (Xero Flux) was able to reach AnonymousIRC (one of the more reputable Twitter channels for long term trusted Anonymous activity) and they claim the USSC on @doxbin is a faked, and comprised of data ripped from a two year old document they released. (Typical Cointel style, take others work and give it a facelift.)”
“2) The night of release they were caught censoring posts asking questions or pointing out that this operation forces all sects to comply and goes directly against the core anon protocol.”
“3) Nobody on IRC can vouch for the credibility of those leading this operation. Anonymous is one thing but when your fellow anons are completly clueless who you are and where you came from when you bust out the gates with an operation this scope is quiet suspicious.”
“4) The same day literally hours before this release Department of Homeland security named Cyber threats a severe issue and is trying to use this threat to enact SOPA style laws with executive order. This operation gives them a perfect example of WHY.”
“5) This paints all anons as hacktivists, something anyone with a brain knows it a complete media machine lie to discredit ACTIVISTS under the same banner.”
“6) A youtube acocunt claiming/admitting to hacking a government site would not be permitted to STILL be active (Note: It is Tuesday Morning 4:16am and still up). It would be ripped down as soon as the first fed hit the video after the hack. YET it;s still up, with no penalty and everyone ignores this fact.”
“7) ALL credible sources/anon cells to date have no idea who is running this operation. It came out of thin air and is using old anon operations data claiming its new.”
“Make up your own mind but you know where we stand. We wont be downloading “warheads” or supporting this is any way as we truly believe this will bite those who participate in the ass. As it labels us all terrorists looking for “CHAOS” and if you dont think cyber authorities will take this to the cleaners, you’re still a noob.”
The very nature of the hacktivist movement makes it difficult, if not almost impossible, to make sense of this situation. However, Anonymous X-SecT presented some serious food for thought with their comments. You will have to ask yourself if you believe the Obama Administration or the United States government would hack their own website, post an encrypted file to download that supposedly contains top secret information, and then collect personal information on anyone who tries to download the file.
This latest twist and turn in the Anonymous saga also points out an important flaw in the concept of an activist organization that is made up of hundreds of people who don’t know each other and share no common ideology. When Anonymous first began, the concept worked well because it was totally unexpected. But as they became better known, and started to go after bigger targets, it became increasingly difficult to figure out exactly who was doing what to whom.
There are millions of people who consider Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Anonymous heroes who fight for justice and the open exchange of information. We will not pass judgement on them, but we will agree that the internet must remain free from any government interference. The World Wide Web may be the last bastion of truth and freedom and allowing the United Nations or any nation’s government to control or censor any part of the internet would be a catastrophic step on the road to tyranny.