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Should Cyber Vigilantes Be Cheered Or Feared

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the everyone-likes-an-ani-hero dept.

Government 232

snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Ted Samson raises several challenging questions in the wake of HBGary, first and foremost being, should the cyber vigilante acts of 'hacktivists' such as Anonymous be embraced? No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling, Samson writes, 'but also troubling is how quickly some members of Congress seek to use illegally acquired information to further their own political agenda.' The underlying message seems to be that cyber vigilantes may have more leeway than those who engage in equally illegal, though decidedly nontechnical methods to expose their targets."

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232 comments

none of the above? (4, Insightful)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363592)

Maybe they do something worthwhile sometimes, but maybe the consequences of that results in a less free internet. I'll withhold cheering

Re:none of the above? (1)

Reed Solomon (897367) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363942)

I'm sure the consequences are of great concern to these internet vigilantes. It's one thing to go after these people, but they're deathly afraid of the cyber police.

Re:none of the above? (5, Insightful)

FriendlyLurker (50431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364036)

"No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling..."

Troubling? That's an understatement... "The Obama Administration’s Justice Department advised the largest bank in America where to find a corporate hacker [Three military contracting 'cyber-security' companies] to fabricate information that could be used to blackmail American journalists" [colbertnation.com] Corporate America, the Military Industrial Complex and the Government all in bed together [msn.com] to operate outside the law inside the US and without any checks, balances or semblance of respect for the law... and this Ted Samson character is more worried about the civil disobedience group Anonymous... Hellooo... threat assessment!?

Re:none of the above? (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364104)

"No doubt the alleged HBGary plot is troubling..."

Troubling? That's an understatement... "The Obama Administration’s Justice Department advised the largest bank in America where to find a corporate hacker [Three military contracting 'cyber-security' companies] to fabricate information that could be used to blackmail American journalists" [colbertnation.com]
Corporate America, the Military Industrial Complex and the Government all in bed together [msn.com] to operate outside the law inside the US and without any checks, balances or semblance of respect for the law... and this Ted Samson character is more worried about the civil disobedience group Anonymous... Hellooo... threat assessment!?

It's simple really. This is mainstream (i.e. lowest common denominator, bottom of the barrel, that which is easiest to sell, what has style but no substance, etc.) thought on the matter: if you are concerned about the government or members of the government acting completely outside of the law, with impunity, well then you're just another paranoid tin-foil hat-wearing insane nutter conspiracy type. You will be dismissed and ridiculed without ever testing the veracity of your claims. That's because we just don't like the way you sound, and that tie you're wearing pisses us off too.

But, if you're concerned about a group of online vandals who cause a lot of inconvenience to a few people, but nothing on the scale of abusive government with no effective checks and balances... well then, we approve of that. Those damned vigilantes. It's definitely okay to believe that a bunch of people with little no no association, organization, or preperation can conspire to bring down a Web site.

It's those insane morons who believe that a bunch of people who are from the same social class, who play golf with each other, who are in bed with the same special interests, who work similar jobs, who all benefit from a more powerful government, why it's madness to believe that they are anything other than saints who are acting in our interests. MADNESS I TELL YOU. What kind of idiot would believe a story like that? Clearly we must ridicule them immediately. We absolutely must, at all costs, ignore every historical precedent for such abuses of power, every self-interested motive of any authority figure involved, every precedent for past abuses of power our own government has perpetrated, and every lack of oversight and basic competency any public official has ever shown. After all, we have some nutters to ridicule.

Re:none of the above? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364082)

"Anonymous" is no hacker group. They're just a bunch of angst teenage script kiddies who post on 4chan. Some of them might know a thing or two but the vast majority use tools and exploits written/discovered by much smarter more talented people than themselves. They're not vigilantes. They attack whoever the fuck they want to attack, for whatever reason, malicious or not.

And while we're at it I might as well say that I'm sick of seeing script kiddie crackers who expose security holes in website (without being asked to) referred to as "security researchers." This article didn't do it but just about every other fucking article on slashdot does.

Re:none of the above? (2)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364188)

Maybe they have some hacker among their ranks. I am dubious when I see the choice of targets for their attacks. Some justified ones, but a lot of evildoers were not target of any campaign. Looking at the past years`events and correlating them to attacks seems to me that anonymous does not often read newspapers- which might be good - and not even alternative media. Strange.

Re:none of the above? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364860)

Oh wait. You seem to be confusing "hacker" with "crusader" or something. Where is the book that defines "hacker" as "good", "honest", "upright", or whatever adjective you care to insert? Why would hackers necessarily target "evildoers"? In reality, there are white hat, black hat, and grey hat hackers. Anonymous generally seems to wear a very dark grey hat. They fall short of being evil, in my view, but they are most CERTAINLY not white hats. Thus, it is perfectly alright for Anonymous to go after an evil organization, or a good organization, or anything in between. But, they aren't obligated to go after anyone or anything that sits anywhere on the scale. How about some kind of a dungeons and dragons analogy? Unlawful chaotic? Why would you expect an unlawful chaotic to go after an evildoer?

Re:none of the above? (1)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364616)

That may be how you feel today or even several years ago, but consider that a lot of prominent hackers got their start doing the same script kiddie type of stuff.

Eventually, they will mature. When that day comes, I think it's a safe bet that Anonymous will possess significantly more talent than they do today.

Re:none of the above? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364704)

"Anonymous" is no hacker group. They're just a bunch of angst teenage script kiddies who post on 4chan. Some of them might know a thing or two but the vast majority use tools and exploits written/discovered by much smarter more talented people than themselves. They're not vigilantes. They attack whoever the fuck they want to attack, for whatever reason, malicious or not.

And while we're at it I might as well say that I'm sick of seeing script kiddie crackers who expose security holes in website (without being asked to) referred to as "security researchers." This article didn't do it but just about every other fucking article on slashdot does.

Disregard this, I suck cocks.

Re:none of the above? (4, Interesting)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364146)

The consequences are nothing but a pack of powers that be that are looking for a convenient excuse for something they are hell bent on imposing anyway.

They have the motive and means. The hacktivists only provide opportunity.

They wouldn't need to be embraced at all... (2)

Debello (1030486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363610)

If the government didn't embrace corruption and breaking their own laws.

Re:They wouldn't need to be embraced at all... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363830)

Agreed. No one ought to have sympathy with the corruption of a government. However, if so-called vigilantes have impunity then they could become a new oppressive regime.

Re:They wouldn't need to be embraced at all... (1)

rtb61 (674572) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363900)

Two wrongs don't make a right but one wrong can certainly undo another wrong and from that can emerge a right.

There of course is the case of citizen's arrest. So citizen's digital search and obtaining of evidence where it is publicly clear that perpetrators are committing criminal activities and yet for unknown reasons government and police fail to act in an manner to kerb those criminal activities and even in some cases support those activities. Then of course the evidence is presented to the public for their assessment of the activities of the perpetrators of crime as well and the government that supports them.

The whole thing is questionable and undesirable but what to do when government and police fail to act upon the public commitment of crime by protected contractors. mass media, lobbyists, rogue public relations firms and of course corrupt politicians.

It is all rather passive and the only harm seems to be against those who profit by lies and for whom the truth is an anathema. They most certainly seem to wither and writhe when exposed to the public light of the truth.

Cheer? Embrace? How about wait and see? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364046)

When vigilantes and government criminals fight, can there be an undeserving loser?

False dichotomy (4, Insightful)

Local ID10T (790134) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363624)

None of the above.

Re:False dichotomy (4, Insightful)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363764)

Agreed. In the end, the appearance of vigilantes is a symptom of something else; I won't go so far as to say it's inevitable, but if it takes vigilantes before things come to light, your country got problems.

Re:False dichotomy (5, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363936)

Agreed. In the end, the appearance of vigilantes is a symptom of something else; I won't go so far as to say it's inevitable, but if it takes vigilantes before things come to light, your country got problems.

The appearance of a few vigiliantes, despised by most, means little. The appearance of a fairly large number of vigilantes, operating with at least the tacit support of the general population, means they're serving a need for justice (whether poorly or well) that the government has failed to fill. The government condemns them regardless, because the government claims the privilege to dispense justice to be solely its own, but when the government claims that privilege then fails to fulfill the implicit duty, what do you expect?

Re:False dichotomy (3, Insightful)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364058)

The appearance of a fairly large number of vigilantes, operating with at least the tacit support of the general population, means they're serving a need for justice (whether poorly or well) that the government has failed to fill.

I don't quite understand how a large number of people believing something makes it right. I mean, it might indicate that the government has angered them, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the people are 'in the right.'

Re:False dichotomy (4, Interesting)

Ruke (857276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364142)

But in this case, the vigilantes are addressing behavior that the government is turning a blind eye to, not behavior that the government had addressed and approved of. It would be quite a different story if there had been a criminal investigation of HBGary and they were found innocent; however, certain parties within the government would seem to have known that they were acting illegally, and chose to do nothing.

And again, it still doesn't mean that the vigilantes are in the right. It just means that they're addressing (for better or for worse) a problem that the government should be addressing, but has failed to.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

causality (777677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364344)

And again, it still doesn't mean that the vigilantes are in the right. It just means that they're addressing (for better or for worse) a problem that the government should be addressing, but has failed to.

Allowing criminals and other abusers to go unpunished and uninvestigated is the time-tested method of creating vigilantes where there otherwise were none.

Re:False dichotomy (2)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364398)

Exactly. Individuals make stupid decisions, and hold stupid beliefs, on a regular basis. But when they become a giant mob, I'm supposed to believe that they're acting rationally and doing the right thing? Good luck with that. There's a reason most modern republics aren't direct-democracies. Constitutions don't just exist to protect "the people" from "the government" - they exist to protect the people from themselves.

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364504)

Constitutions don't just exist to protect "the people" from "the government" - they exist to protect the people from themselves.

From the same, angle, though: if a government fails to do either, and its response to opposition is merely to crack down on the opposition, can it still be called a democracy at all?

The situation we're finding ourselves in now is that we're slipping on point one (protecting the people from the government), leading to others trying to fill that void (in other words, protect us and themselves from the government) - and in an extremely benign way of merely exposing the wrongdoing, not escalating to physical retaliation. You're trying to invoke visions of armed mobs here, but that's the other extreme end of the spectrum compared to what actually happened.

On the upshot, we're seeing that the crackdown isn't happening either. Which might be interpreted as a sign of hope that it's not at the level of intentional total corruption, but of the cyclical stuff that creeps in occasionally in any sufficiently large system.

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364660)

A good case in point

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JonBen%C3%A9t_Ramsey

The parents were for YEARS (and probably are still) harassed. And the dudes from south park owe them a public apology.

Vigilantes may target the wrong people even though they 'mean to do good'. People are morons. Sometimes they have power many times thank god they dont.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

Dr Max (1696200) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364494)

I don't quite understand how a large number of people believing something makes it right. I mean, it might indicate that the government has angered them, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the people are 'in the right.'

if the number is larger enough it is. thats democracy

Re:False dichotomy (5, Insightful)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363766)

How about "jeered"? A vigilante, regardless of motivations, is a vigilante. And I'm pretty sure many of these poeple are doing it for the lulz rather than to do any sort of meaningful protest that will accomplish something.

Re:False dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363910)

That's most likely why they have targeted specific causes dealing with corruption and freedom of speech. Because it's funnier. The "grunts" are probably just followers, but that's true in most organizations. So far, the cyber-vigilantes have had a purpose. Whether or not you disagree with their purpose or their actions is the issue. I feel trying to paint the entire thing with a "contempt brush" is just a cheap attempt to rouse public support against them.

Re:False dichotomy (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364090)

> A vigilante, regardless of motivations, is a vigilante.

More like common vandals. If you wouldn't cheer em rampaging in a mob with fireaxes and making off with file cabinets you shouldn't be cheering them doing essentially the same smash and grab and sticking an i, cyber- or some such hip prefix that boils down to the same ol 'take something ordinary stick "on the Internet" on and call it new and fresh. (And probably patentable but that is a rant for another thread.)

They aren't vigilantes anymore when they attack someone for the sole reason they were investigating them. That is so clearly across the moral line the only reason more people don't see it is they agree so strongly with Anonymous's stated political goals it blinds them. Gotham PD gets tired of Batman's vigilante tactics and decides to track him down and arrest him. He shoots Gordon in the face when he shows up at Wayne Manor with a warrant. Goodbye Batman, hello Supervillan looking for a new name.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364728)

That is so clearly across the moral line the only reason more people don't see it is they agree so strongly with Anonymous's stated political goals it blinds them.

You can't compare an amorphous, shifting multinational group like Anonymous with Batman, mainly because Anonymous has no stated political goals. What goals they do have are largely spur-of-the-moment, and tend to last only until the next big thing comes along to garner their attention. That's actually what makes them so dangerous: they're not predictable in any particular regard (like Batman invariably is, and which is always used against him) and somewhere amongst that morass of script-kiddies is some real talent.

Re:False dichotomy (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364750)

"Vigilante" is an idiotic term to use here. These people are protesters, nothing else, no different than people who block entrances to government buildings or bombard politicians with mail and phone calls. Why is it that when something happens on the Internet, it suddenly becomes something more than the same act happening in real life?

Varies Over Time (Re:False dichotomy) (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363858)

None of the above.

Agreed. Historically, organizations vary in their quality and relevance over time. They tend to start out fresh and idealistic, then end up having outlived their usefulness. Anonymous, being an "un-organization" might be able to avoid this fate. I suspect, by the time, if ever, Anonymous has become stale, another such media-stunt group will adopt their methods and pick up such activities under their own banner.

Transparency is always good... (1)

filesiteguy (695431) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363638)

...as long a there were no laws broken in the process of gleaning or divulging the information.

Re:Transparency is always good... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363776)

Daniel Ellsberg would disagree with your qualifier, and so would I.

        Secrecy serves no one.

Re:Transparency is always good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363916)

Secrecy serves no one.

Says the AC.

Re:Transparency is always good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363980)

There's no functional difference between an AC and a pseudonym account. If real names were enforced here there'd be a lot fewer douchebags.

Re:Transparency is always good... (3, Insightful)

Cwix (1671282) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364000)

Be less interesting to read thats for sure though.

Re:Transparency is always good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364732)

There's no functional difference between an AC and a pseudonym account.

Actually, I changed my mind. There is a huge functional difference, and I completely retract everything I said in my previous post. I also like to eat boogers.

the average must bind together to expose the smart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363668)

Because that's the only way the average can prevent oppression by the smart.

Depends on the specific case, of course (3, Insightful)

ron_ivi (607351) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363672)

In the case of HB Gary - they did everyone (especially those who pay for HBGary's services - meaning mostly taxpayers) a great service by exposing a security company apparently so fraudulent it had no business in the computer security field.

If it were my own web sites, I'd very much hope that if someone found an exploit, they'd let me know by visibly defacing my homepage, rather than just ignoring the vulnerability and leaving me vulnerable until some less scrupulous hacker finds it next.

I hope the law would take intent into consideration a lot in those cases. If the intent was to inform HB Gary and HB Gary customers that their security knowledge sucked, IMHO they did a service to all by demonstrating that. OTOH, if their intent was to steal people's credit cards or something from HB Gary, they should be gone after just like any other credit card thief should.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363878)

But HBGary is not a fraudulent security company. Claiming that just because they did several things wrong makes them "fraudulent" is absurd.

The uncovered e-mails suggest HBGary is quite good at finding and exploiting Windows bugs to provide various forms of security and/or spy services. Creepy, yes, but not fraudulent by any means.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (2)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363982)

Creepy and illegal and unethical.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364114)

Not illegal in the slightest, there are many companies that are actively [idefense.com] and publicly [zerodayinitiative.com] purchasing [wslabi.com] 0day.

Why would it be unethical to research and sell 0day to your own government? Governments need cyber armaments as well as physical ones. Are tank manufacturers unethical?

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (2)

lostmongoose (1094523) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364412)

Are tank manufacturers unethical?

At the point where the tanks (exploits and security holes, in this case) are used to harass and subdue opposition amongst the citizenry and the manufacturer has no issue with it, they are. The gov't answers to the people, not the other way around. When the people are angry enough to start speaking out, you don't turn your arsenal on them. Unless you wanna live in China or Libya or Bahrain or Iran....I can go on, but I shouldn't need to.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364128)

The thing is, they are apparently better at being the bad guy than they are at stopping the bad guy. Apparently if you want the law broken, HB Gary is the go-to company.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364770)

The thing is, they are apparently better at being the bad guy than they are at stopping the bad guy. Apparently if you want the law broken, HB Gary is the go-to company.

Well, like Stephen Colbert said, the idiots stuck their collective dick into a hornet's nest. I'm sure Aaron Barr and Co. were more than a little surprised when it turned out that his rather direct challenge (and threat) to Anonymous resulted in a demonstration of blackhattery that was on par with his own. He should have known better, and taken steps.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364068)

In the case of HB Gary - they did everyone (especially those who pay for HBGary's services - meaning mostly taxpayers) a great service by exposing a security company apparently so fraudulent it had no business in the computer security field.

You are confusing two separate companies that were only related in that one was a spin-off of the other. This has been typical of most bloggers and media, none of them did their homework even though it would only take a simple Dunn and Bradstreet lookup to verify.

HBGary Federal never received any government contracts. In fact, it was a 4 person, 1.5 year old company. So, no tax payer dollars wasted. Read the emails, they were in danger of shutting down due to lack of funds.

If you mean HBGary, which is a separate company that specializes in malware analysis and was not actually breached other than a website defacement, then, uh... what exactly did the hackers prove other than outsourcing your website is a bad idea? Malware analysis and securing a website are entirely different things. If HBGary were a pen-testing company, or a security policy company, then maybe your point would stand.

Like most of the media, tech sites, and bloggers, the entire thing has been blown out of proportion. What is most amusing is that the integrity of a 4chan spin off hacker group (Anonymous) has not been questioned. A little logic trail:

1. Anonymous supports wikileaks and assange, attacks various companies that don't support wikileaks
2. wikileaks has supposed "BOA documents"
3. HBGary Federal announces supposed information on Anonymous
4. Anonymous breaks into a few email accounts at HBGary Federal
5. surprise surprise! Anonymous magically finds that HBGary Federal (a 4 person company, remember) is plotting with BOA to take down wikileaks, oh and yeah they are also trying to spy on american citizens and stuff to do with unions! oh and they have all these leet hax0r 0days! oh and they wrote stuxnet!

... just a bit too convenient, a few too many coincidences, and no real evidence other than supposedly leaked emails with no digital signatures or any way to verify integrity...

either HBGary Federal was a setup being used to push paranoia, or Anonymous faked some of the emails to support their own agenda.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364212)

either HBGary Federal was a setup being used to push paranoia, or Anonymous faked some of the emails to support their own agenda.

...or they were a small-time security company trying to make it big by turning to the dark side in a "legal" manner.

Remember -- when you're dealing with corporations and governments at this level, "4 person company" is pretty much meaningless -- the companies are usually "consulting" companies who pull in "contractors" who have "clearance". It's called covering their personal liability just in case something goes wrong. This is actually the kind of group large corporations and governments routinely like to work with, as the company can always be the scapegoat should anything go wrong, and the actual players can disband and re-form with minimal liability (all the "contractors" who work for these companies are one step removed, so don't have any bad press or liability sticking to them at all).

It's always going to be a bit too convenient, because this kind of setup is convenient, and happens constantly.

Oh, and despite what you're saying, nobody has denied the emails and a number of people have made tracks to distance themselves from the emails. The Congressional side of all this is neither here nor there -- if they hadn't got their hands on this situation, they would have found something else similar (because when you go on a fishing expedition, you're likely going to find mud).

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (1)

Z34107 (925136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364292)

Three problems, Anon:

  1. Anonymous didn't break into just "a few" e-mail accounts. "All of them" would be more accurate.
  2. It's awful hard to fake 70,000 e-mail messages.
  3. It's awful hard to fake "some of the e-mails", and have them remain internally consistent with the other 70,000.

But, go ahead and read them [92.241.162.216] . Come back when you've found out which ones were faked.

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364448)

What kind of defacement? If it's goatse I'd rather be told via email rather than defacement. :)

Re:Depends on the specific case, of course (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364788)

If it were my own web sites, I'd very much hope that if someone found an exploit, they'd let me know by visibly defacing my homepage, rather than just ignoring the vulnerability and leaving me vulnerable until some less scrupulous hacker finds it next.

So how does it feel to be an idiot?

The first time your business's web page gets defaced, and the result is that you lose multiple customers resulting in your layoff/being fired, I suspect you'll start to have a much more practical and far less ignorant approach to the situation.

Cheered (1)

PraiseBob (1923958) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363674)

If there was a shootout between rival gangs of organized criminals, and a body was found with information implicating the rest of their organization, would the police ignore the information because of the method it was gained?

Re:Cheered (2)

Duradin (1261418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363746)

Police investigating a murder?!? What is this world coming to? Will no one think of the murderers?

Re:Cheered (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363784)

Organized criminals = gangs. Unfortunately, most police investigations don't do much with gang related shootings. Even Tupac, who was super famous, did not get an investigation into his murder for that reason, it was gang related

Re:Cheered (1)

PraiseBob (1923958) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363904)

I was more thinking a Mafia style black book of secrets being found on a body. But in your example, say Tupac's car had been loaded with solid evidence of criminal wrongdoing by other people. Would it get ignored?

Re:Cheered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364172)

So all I have to do is leave a "gang related body" in the street, with a little black book filled with all the people I don't like and the names of any company I don't like? Sign me up, I've got a long list of grievances to address!

Oh, and I'll be sure to include PraiseBob's dirty childporn collection in the list.

Re:Cheered (1)

Mashiki (184564) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364310)

Yes. It all depends on whether or not the chain of evidence is corrupted. Policing isn't like the movies where 'data' shows up and people go WHOO! Get the DA, lay dem charges! WHOOO!

Didn't we use to call them Journalists? (3, Funny)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363676)

Now their Cyber Vigilantes. Should be asking if Upton Sinclair should be cheered or feared?

Re:Didn't we use to call them Journalists? (1)

U8MyData (1281010) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363912)

Yes, my thoughts exactly. Let us not forget either that this was supposedly a "cyber security" company and the couldn't even protect there own sh*t. WTFO!

Should hackers be praised... (1)

GillyGuthrie (1515855) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363684)

I think they should be praised, yes. I also recognize their actions are illegal and therefore uncondoned; however, I believe it is a important thing that the potential impact of the internet is commonly known to all peoples of the world. We live in an age where near-instant communication is the norm and that will hopefully empower more revolutionary movements like the ones we've seen in the Middle East. Damn the semantics - "those 'hacktivists' broke the law" - those hackers are peaceful protestors from a certain perspective.

"More leeway"? Compared to what exactly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363716)

Exactly who's the other half of the comparison that Anonymous is getting "more leeway"? FFS, we've got a guy here in the US that's openly admitted to using torture to try to find a connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 and nothing's happened to him...

Cyber? (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363738)

I hate 'cyber' being used for everything. Cybervigilantes should be treated just the same as normal Vigilantes.

Just because they're not riding around with a colt full of silver bullets and instead are behind a computer screen doesn't make any difference.

Re:Cyber? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363824)

Here's the sack, you can supply your own doorknobs.

Re:Cyber? (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364834)

There was an article a few months ago about "cyber" -- it basically said that you should be wary of anyone who chooses to use the word "cyber" to describe anything.

In any case, Anonymous is not a vigilante group; that description is more fitting for a group like perverted justice. Anonymous is just a bunch of protesters who are using the Internet for their protest. I see no difference between Anonymous and a campaign to bombard politicians or businesses with mail and telephone calls (especially since the attacks Anonymous is performing are pretty low level in terms of the skill that is needed -- these people are not writing the next stuxnet). The fact that it is happening online is nothing more than an artifact of 21st century life.

To the cheered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363754)

So it is fine, as long as it was deserved?

It all depends on the damage and reason for it. (-1, Troll)

ubuntufan4 (2007434) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363770)

If all hacker did was to DoS a site, the damage is pretty much zero. Its like a riot that blocks a street for 1/2 of a hour. However, in more severe cases, it should be punished, but not too harash. For example getting 15 years in prison [tiny.cc] for hacking a site, it just too much!

Re:It all depends on the damage and reason for it. (1)

barrtender (1930830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363834)

I would like to discourage anyone from clicking that link. It's goatse. I either don't have mod privileges or don't know how to access them so I can't just mod this comment down.

Depends on how quiet they stay (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363832)

I truly like the idea of anon, but when they start getting cocky, then I refuse the idea. By cocky, I mean then sending threats out to WBC. Even if WBC had a hand in that threat, they threatened and then took them down. I do not agree with that at all. In that case, it would not be cheer or fear, but shun. Now with HBGary, I would cheer. I have said it before, but if they shut up and just do stuff, I would cheer like crazy for them. The moment they start making threat letters or even making people aware of a target, I shun. I do not fear them (they are not that cocky yet). As long as they stay quiet like some ninjas and just attack, then I would cheer for everything they did.

Re:Depends on how quiet they stay (2)

barrtender (1930830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363888)

Knowing WBC's past it's fairly likely that the entire thing was fabricated by them. That said, I don't see anything of value being lost if that organization is actually attacked and taken down.

Re:Depends on how quiet they stay (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364298)

The entire idea of cheering or shunning anon is kind of odd to me; no two "cyber" flash mobs are the same makeup.

Now, the activities conducted under the anon umbrella are a different issue....

Cheered (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363846)

Any type of activist is a good. It sure beats the usual sheepish (american) who is content with letting 400 people have everything, while they sit and watch NCIS and eat big macs.

Re:Cheered (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364800)

Any type of activist is a good. It sure beats the usual sheepish (american) who is content with letting 400 people have everything, while they sit and watch NCIS and eat big macs.

I'm guessing you meant "sheeplike", not "sheepish", and what do you have against Big Macs? Or NCIS?

criminal activities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35363852)

hmmm. Why are we talking about the "vigilantes" as criminals?
Didn't HBGary at least conspire to engage in fraud and other crimes against US citizens?
Didn't Bank of America and other corporations at least conspire and/or collude in such activities?
What about the federal government of the US (Dept of Commerce, others?), who were aware of HBGary Federal capabilities and may have paid for their services to perform such activities against citizens of the US?

Before a single hour of FBI or other federal law enforcement time is spent chasing Anonymous, they should pursue every crime committed by HBGary Federal and federal government entities. The first mission of the Department of Justice is to protect US citizens, not the government or corporations.

Re:criminal activities (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364206)

You can be a criminal even if you only victimize criminals. Vigilantes, despite their aura, are almost always in violation of the law when they act. Vigilantes rob their targets of Due Process, which is what helps corporations and rich people get off scot free, but it does also protect the innocent in the majority of cases.

As far as Anonymous goes, I really haven't looked into it, but I'm guessing that the component members who executed the actual attacks are in violation of a law or three.

Vigilantes know that what they are doing is illegal. They understand they can only act unless or until they get caught. They do it because they feel they have to, or because there are just too many lulz to pass up. Whatever the reason, the specific component members of Anonymous know it's breaking the law and they are banking on not getting caught.

As for the government, they may be beholden to the corporations, but they are even more beholden to media attention. The fact is that everyone knows Anonymous is out there, they're featured all over the place. Corporations are good at keeping their mouths shut. They don't make a stink and they rarely gloat. They just vacuum up money any way they can get away with.

By being public and issuing threats in defiance of the law and doing so with impunity, they're guaranteed to attract the attention of the law. You might be right that corporations are just as culpable, if not more, but how can the law ignore someone screaming "WE ARE ABOVE THE LAW" in deference to investigating nice, quiet white collar criminals? They really can't get away with that. Anonymous must be responded to in some fashion because they are so public. There may be rats crawling inside the walls, but its going to be the mouse that sticks its head out of the hole that is going to get stomped on first.

Re:criminal activities (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364488)

hmmm. Why are we talking about the "vigilantes" as criminals?

Quite simply because we don't get to pick and choose which laws we abide by and which we do not. Now, if the folks at HBGary committed any criminal acts - that makes them criminals. Similarly, if the folks from Anonymous committed criminal any acts - they too are criminals. They are not absolved of any civic responsibility just because their victims are criminals. You may consider Anonymous' actions to be lesser crimes that those of HBGary, but you don't get to choose. A person is a criminal if he/she commits a crime - see how that works?

Both? (2)

techoi (1435019) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363924)

Maybe a little of both - cheers and fears. I think they fill a void that isn't being addressed by any existing group in this day and age. And just maybe they will help bring a balance back to the notion that governments need to fear the people (seemingly lost on most western leaders) more than people fearing their government. If Anon (et al) shine a much needed light on that, then cheer away I say.

As far as WBC goes, never forget that anyone (literally) can claim something in the name of Anon (think of literal free speech), but only if it fires up enough other members (lacking a better word) will much in the way of any action occur.

Both. (1)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363950)

Both, since they don't respect the law there's no telling what they will go after next. Also, I don't think that this represents the government giving anon more leeway. I'm quite sure they'd like very much to have the perpetrator in a courtroom adjacent to the one where the fate of HBGary will be decided. They just haven't caught the perps yet is all.

More like protesters (1)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363954)

Each and every case will just have to taken individually. Mostly likely people will cheer the ones they agree with and jeer the ones they dislike. They may be supportive of some but also agree that charges should follow for the more extreme cases. What we are seeing is nothing more than activism and protests just like we see in the real world. Just because they are happening via computers really doesn't make them anything special. They'll be even less special as the world's population gets more and more used to using computers for everything. PETA, instead of throwing blood on people or posing naked in public will trash other people's websites and spam forums. Populations, instead of gathering in the city square will DDOS the government systems. The same thing happened with the invention of the phone where people would jam the other guy's phone lines or run up their 800 bills by calling their lines. You even had people calling 800 numbers for the lulz as they would just call some 800 number with the purpose of keeping the person who answered on the line for as long as possible while tormenting them verbally. This is just new tech and method of communication, not a new form of human behavior. All this should already be covered and nothing is really changed by adding "cyber-" infront of it.

Nothing has changed in 30 years. (3, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363964)

It's always "their (cyber) terrorist" and "our (cyber) freedom fighters/freedom watchdogs." Whenever it's not serving the agenda of those in power, it's always "theirs." When it does, it's always "ours."

Re:Nothing has changed in 30 years. (0)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364434)

It's always "their (cyber) terrorist" and "our (cyber) freedom fighters/freedom watchdogs." Whenever it's not serving the agenda of those in power, it's always "theirs." When it does, it's always "ours."

No shit? You mean, when something isn't ours, it's theirs? And when something isn't theirs, it's ours? Wow. Whoda thunk it! I hope you get modded +5 Informative; you've definitely earned it!

Re:Nothing has changed in 30 years. (5, Funny)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364436)

much more ably illuminated in blackadder :-)

Captain Darling: So you see, Blackadder, Field Marshall Haig is most anxious to eliminate all these German spies.
General Melchett: Filthy hun weasels, fighting their dirty underhand war!
Captain Darling: And fortunately, one of our spies...
General Melchett: Splendid fellows, brave heroes risking life and limb for Blighty!

result of bad parenting (0)

Alimony Pakhdan (1855364) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363976)

Thanks to kids having been mollycoddled and the infestation of a sense of entitlement, this is what we get. If only their fathers had been a bit more liberal with the belt I doubt we'd have to have this discussion.

Re:result of bad parenting (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364138)

You are exactly the kind of person I hope never has children. You can raise kids, and discipline kids, without hitting them or other forms of physical or psychological abuse. Abuse is the easy way out because then you don't have to be a parent, you can just be a bully.

The only people who defend hitting kids are trash, and those are people who were hit themselves and only know abuse as a means for keeping the family in order. I've got a whole branch of the family tree that consists of low-income, renting, drinking, tattooed, pot-smoking white trash, and they make the exact same argument you (and other child abusers) do.

There are bad parents today, but hitting a child is never the right answer. You know what's sad? The same people that hit kids turn a blind eye to abuse reported by the child (because they "probably deserved it") and are indifferent to elder abuse too. It's systemic, once you become accustomed to it you are accustomed to others being subjected to abuse as well.

Looking through your profile you have a number of low-ranking posts, so I can see you are just a socially maladjusted troll. Guess I should have checked that first.

Information is information. (3, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35363998)

Once it has been exposed, it has been exposed. The toothpaste is out of the tube. There is no putting it back.

So why is the fact that some people made use of that information "troubling"?? I would be troubled if they didn't.

Is anybody complaining that people shouldn't use information that was exposed by WikiLeaks? No? Why not? How is that different from information that was exposed by anybody else? WikiLeaks did not commit any crimes, but somebody did.

Re:Information is information. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364034)

To be clear: I am not advocating the breaking of laws to gain information. But once information is already exposed, it's hard to ignore.

I will say, however, that I might be willing to turn a blind eye to minor "bending" of the law, if its intent is to expose government or corporate corruption.

Wrong choice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364014)

Praise/condemn actions, not people or groups. Even the best of folks screw up and even the worse can do something good once in a while.

Of course they should (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364032)

I naturally cheer those actions that I think are beneficial and decry those that I think are detrimental to my concerns. There's no blanket belief system to embrace all actions, because they are "technically" involved. Isn't my modding my post a form of electronic vigilantism?

Perspective and scale (1)

Okian Warrior (537106) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364096)

The problem is one of definition and scale.

We've all been taught to oppose vigilante actions, and rightly so. We believe that vigilantism is bad at a gut level, and people use that bias to sway public opinion to their own ends.

Vigilantism is when you pass penalty judgement on someone outside of the legal process, for example hanging someone for stealing cattle. The actions of the hackers don't fall under the definition because no one was hurt and no penalties were passed out.

This is simply one group committing a crime in order to expose a much larger crime. We should apply a measure of scale here and realize that the lesser crime can be outweighed by the value to society from exposing the larger issues.

If this is vigilantism, then so is Brad Manning's gift to Wikileaks. Both parties broke the law in order to expose larger crimes which had substantial public interest.

While I don't advocate reporters breaking into places to root around for evidence, at times the public interest is so overwhelming that we can forgive (and even applaud) illegal actions under those limited circumstances.

This is one of those cases. Anonymous can legitimately be labeled with bad words for their actions (immature, hackers, &c), but in the case at hand, their service to society completely outweighs the gravity of their crimes.

Who is to say what is and isn't appropriate? (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364126)

You put your server on the internet, show some ports to the wild like a hole with party invites, and then want the law to make up for your technical inadequacies later on, divining the intention of the flawed system of your own construction? Nonsense.

The internet would be a far more secure/safe/reliable place if we just treated it as the wild west from a data perspective.

Using (but not acquiring) credit card numbers that don't belong to you? Still illegal.

Breaking into a building to gain access? Still illegal.

Gaining access under false pretenses (e.g. phone trickery)? Still fraud, still illegal.

Now, since Anonymous went old-school human engineering on this one, sure, someone broke the law, but I'm far more willing to tolerate this sort of action when it's aimed at exposing rights violations, abuse of legal procedure for what amounts to extortion, or corruption.

When it comes to just issuing requests to a faulty piece of software/hardware, I'd say that a hostile environment has a much better chance of improving real security than one with soft (and capriciously applied) legal restrictions. Straight up hacking should just be the expected norm.

Unfortunate (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#35364322)

I would LIKE to not feel a need to cheer for them. I would like to have police and courts interested in the best interests of society and individuals within it, but apparently that's not the case, so I just have to be grateful for anyone willing to fill the vacuum. The press used to do some of this for us when something fell through the cracks, but they don't seem all that interested in hard core investigation any more.

So, I guess as long as DOJ, DHS, FBI, et al are too busy working for the mouse and the *AA to take care of these things and the press are too afraid they might not get invited to the next ball, it'll have to be Anon and Wikileaks.

= Should protesters be cheered or feared? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364602)

Depends on what it is they're promoting.
Depends on what it is they're doing.
Depends on where you yourself stand.

If they're blocking access to business storefronts (whether on DC streets or by DOSing paypal)...

This is nothing new. Most modern regimes have set aside provisions for protest as the good from them outweighs the bad. Even despite it being disruptive to an extent. They've set clear bounds. Congregating and waving signs - ok. Raping and pillaging - not so ok.

Maybe the online version needs a bit more nutting-out and clarification what exactly those bounds are.

Questionable research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35364830)

The author claims that Anonymous went after Westboro Church, but it was exposed (last week?) that the claimed attack was staged by Westboro for the publicity.

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