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A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, symbolic of the hacktivist group "Anonymous", takes part in a protest in central Brussels January 28, 2012. (YVES HERMAN/Yves Herman/Reuters)
A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, symbolic of the hacktivist group "Anonymous", takes part in a protest in central Brussels January 28, 2012. (YVES HERMAN/Yves Herman/Reuters)


How I learned to stop worrying and love Anonymous Add to ...

I am 25 year veteran of the Internet as a profitable concern and today, I would like to add my voice in support of #Anonymous.

This is a strange and perhaps career-limiting admission to make. But I no longer believe Anonymous is some gang of cyber terrorists, nor is it a Mafia-like criminal organization or a pack of cowards hiding in their parents’ basement. Those who publicly claim otherwise are, in my opinion, being alarmist and intellectually lazy to the point of negligence or duplicity.

Yes, the Anonymous movement is made up of a broad International coalition of online communities spanning the sometimes dark corners of AntiSec hackers, the wider world of DDoS (distributed denial of service) activists and even some prominent human rights and freedom of information advocates like Julian Assange.

That said, sometimes “Anonymous” is just a single person with a cellphone camera or a YouTube account making sure evil does not go unwitnessed.

There are divergences within this coalition of ideologies, but I can agree with one basic tenet of the movement: It posits that, as worldwide connectivity tops 2 billion, the Internet has evolved into something new and greater than the sum of its parts, with rights, rules, obligations and a culture unique unto itself.

It also believes action is needed to defend those rights.

Last month – eSentire's Travis Barlow invited me to host a session at the Atlantic Security Conference regarding Anonymous and its implications for both the security community and small business.

I stood up in front of 200 of my peers, some of the finest security minds this country has to offer, and suggested to them this so-called hacktivist fringe has the power to be a force for great good.

Hactivism, as undertaken by Anonymous, sees no buildings burned, no kids are clubbed and no officers pelted with rocks. It is non-violent protest that deliberately targets nothing more, and nothing less, than reputation.

The most dangerous outcome of the Anonymous movement, perhaps the most important thing it can do, is the embarrassment of people unaccustomed to being embarrassed.

Given the grandstanding around Bill C-30, it is easy to forget that it was an Anonymous crew that executed a campaign called #OpDarkNet in which it publicly released e-mail accounts and server locations for some of the largest child porn operations on the Internet. Clearly, that operation was not “with the child pornographers” and you may have read about several actual arrests in Canada around that time.

Because the Anonymous movement is not just a gang of credit-card-stealing thugs it was not “beheaded” by the arrest of a crew within the LulzSec community. That said, the infiltration and arrests may have radicalized the vast centre of the movement.

Another example of the kind of non-violent action Anonymous takes came in response to SOPA/ACTA/TPP/C-11 and C-30 and Occupy Wall Street evictions worldwide.

Several Anonymous communities undertook an educational campaign to distribute simple tool sets and basic information to activist communities both here and abroad. This campaign was aimed at re-empowering people driven from streets by the rubber bullet and the tear gas gun while exercising their right to protest.

As a result – thousands of Anonymous DDoS activists set up digital picket lines to shut down kukluxklan.bz, ufc.com, americannaziparty.com, eolas.com, heritagefront.com, monsanto.com and godhatesfags.com.

In response to government assurances that warrantless retention of private Internet data was completely safe, Anons opened several almost completely unsecured police sites world wide to make the point that it wasn't.

While it remains to be seen if Anonymous will manage to wield their power more wisely than other revolutionaries who have come before them, there can be no argument that the stakes are small or insignificant.

I can think of one monstrous example that overwhelmingly argues that thinking people everywhere need to try to listen to Anonymous (even if you can not participate in or support its actions): The death of a 26-year-old Syrian dad named Rami Ahmad al-Sayeed.

On Feb 21, 2012 Mr. al-Sayeed was killed in a mortar attack as the Assad forces shelled BabaAmr.

Mr. al-Sayeed spent the last eight months of his remarkable life bypassing Syrian Internet censorship – with the direct technical assistance of a lot of so-called “Anonymous Cyber Terrorists” here and abroad – in order to upload video to YouTube as the shells rained down around him in Homs.

He, and Anonymous, were making sure the world could see how it ends when governments no longer serve or protect the people they govern.

His final post makes for a chilling epitaph: “I expect this will be my last message and no one will forgive you who talked but didn't act.”

Following a 20 year career pioneering digital publications, B2C/B2G/B2B e-commerce and high security mobile solutions both in Canada and abroad – Jon Blanchard spent the last 6 years as Webmaster with the Halifax Herald family of companies.

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