Does Anonymous Pose a Threat to Cybersecurity?

This week’s topic of discussion was one of my favorites by far- Cybersecurity and hacking. Before reading the two articles discussed in class, and listening to our guest lecturer Ralph Russo, professor at Tulane University in the Homeland Security Program, I was not fully educated on cybersecurity and its threat to human individuals. When thinking about ICT4D I never thought cybersecrurity and hacking would apply as greatly as it really does. What really intrigued me about Professor Russo’s talk was when he mentioned the use of applications on mobile phones, and if they are a means to promote a cyber attack. This really got me thinking, everything is run by technology: every means of transportation, food stands, banking, water industries, etc.  In connection to developing countries, not having a cybersecurity plan can be detrimental to that countries success and can lead to further impoverishment. However can hacking also be beneficial to social welfare of individuals?   In regards to hacking and cybersecurity, I recently read an Article by Dave Smith in reference to the hacktivist group  Anonymous. To learn more  about Anonymous  please read brookekania  post  Internet Hackers: Anonymous.

In brief, Anonymous  is known for hacking an array of targets such as from the internet company  GoDaddy to religious organizations to government websites,the Pentagon, and most recently Bank of America and the controversial Steubenville High School Rape Case. This year Anonymous hacked into Bank of America,  releasing up  to 16 gigabytes of information related to  Bank of America, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters and others. This group articulated that Bank of America had employed security firms to “spy and collect information on private citizens  (Smith, 2013)”, it also was spying on social activist groups, Anonymous being one of them.  The  group also released the salaries of  top CEO’s from around the world. Although many officials say that this was a hack, Anonymous denied this accusation by having one of their subgroup representatives  identifying itself as Par:AnoIA speak in a press release stating:

“The source of this release has confirmed that the data was not acquired by a hack but because it was stored on a misconfigured server and basically open for grabs,” Par:AnoIA said. “Looking at the data it becomes clear that Bank of America, TEKSystems and others (see origins of reports) gathered information on Anonymous and other activists’ movement on various social media platforms and public Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels (Adams, 2013).”

Additionally, the group found even more disturbing information, they discovered that the data was retrieved from an Israeli server in Tel Aviv. What is BofA’s connection with Isreal? The aim of releasing this information  was not to induce a cyber security threat on BofA. It was to inform the American people about  how corporations may be wrongfully spying on online activism that does not pose any threat impeding on individuals freedom. They also wanted to shed light on the questionable ways that BofA and other powerful corporations are funding these actions. Anonymous spokesperson stated: “We release the received files in full to raise awareness to this issue and to send a signal to corporations and Governments that this is unacceptable.” Although their actions were intended for the welfare of Americans, hacking into a bank poses serious cyber security threats to the country and its partners. Were Anonymous acts justified?

Anonymous was also in the news about their actions in the Steubenville High School Rape, where social media was used to perpetuate rape culture but also to bring light and justice to  sickening and graphic details about this controversial event. The case centered around two star high school football players and their involvement in raping an intoxicated unconscious teenage girl at a party. During the party pictures and videos  were taken of both the unconscious and the two teammates talking about their actions towards the girl. According to AlterNets’ writer  Kristen Gwynne, for months, only Alexandria Goddard of reported on the rape, where she stated that their was social media evidence (twitter, facebook, instagram) that could be linked to the perpetrators of this crime(Gwynne,2013). Her reporting drew in Anonymous and they were able to hack into these media sites where they released a disturbing video of the teenagers who performed this inhuman rape act. Through their hacking, Anonymous was able to bring justice to the victim’s family, and draw national attention to a crime that could have been easily thrown under the rocks. Although this event was not a threat to cybersecurity, it does pose a question about the privacy of the web and its monitoring. Should  social networks be monitored more heavily to prevent heinous crimes like this, and how could this be beneficial for developing countries?  From a capabilities approach, are the actions of Anonymous justified and can this hacktivist group be a catalyst for ICT4D?


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