Just yesterday, Facebook and Twitter shut down Anonymous' presence on their sites, due to the illegal nature of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on web properties. However, like the classic 1970s arcade game, as soon as one online profile was "whacked," another popped up.
Anonymous promotes their cause @Anon-Operation on Twitter and subscribers in the thousands are following; questioning why the group keeps getting yanked. The users behind this new profile claim they're "just trying to wipe out all this dictatorship government" as part of "Operation Payback." In a recent move, they've gone after credit card giants such as MasterCard and Visa, who've blocked payments to support Wikileaks.
In an effort to learn more about the group, I accepted the invitation to join them in an IRC chatroom. With more than 3,000 people "talking" at the same time, it's safe to say my questions were drowned out. I was therefore left with no choice but to lurk.
Many chats revolved around who should be the next digital target. Other focused on proposed attacks on Amazon and Paypal. Users also shared links to Anonymous' press mentions and suggested an attack on former Stephen Harper adviser Tom Flanagan for his recent comment about assassinating Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Chatters also named Sarah Palin an "easy target" and encouraged hackers to cause more electronic problems for the former Alaska governor-turned-reality TV star, who recommended - on her Facebook page - that the U.S. government pursue Mr. Assange with the same urgency they pursue al Qaeda.
While this chatroom represents just a small sample of players in a growing web war, it's clear that as companies make it increasingly difficult for Wikileaks supporters to mobilize, both financially and socially, hacktivists are going to find ways to communicate in underground channels.
And although there were the obvious users who appeared to be involved simply for the thrill of the fight, the more serious chatters kept hammering home the reason they were hacking in the first place: freedom of information online.
When you hear the term hackers, you may automatically associate them with 'the bad guys,' wreaking havoc on the Internet. But as politicians, journalists, and bloggers brashly encourage killing Mr. Assange and hunting down Wikileaks supporters, I'm no longer sure whose side I'm on.
The only thing I am sure about is that, like the moles in Whac-A-Mole, hackers won't stand down without a good long fight, no matter how hard they're hit on the head.