Anonymous are a loose-knit group of activists with members based around the world. They have become infamous by using the internet to attack a wide range of targets, ranging from the Chinese government to the Church of Scientology, pedophiles and even ISIS. And their actions veer from the audacious to the downright bizarre. Yet still, some might argue that they can be surprisingly effective at highlighting controversial issues.
20. Getting mad at Scientology
In 2008 the Church of Scientology objected to a video which it owned being posted to YouTube. In it, top Hollywood star and Scientology poster boy Tom Cruise explained some of the finer points of the notorious sect. YouTube subsequently took the video down, and Anonymous got mad, vandalizing Scientology websites and spam-faxing the church’s offices. The group’s avowed aim was to “systematically dismantle the Church of Scientology in its present form.”
19. An attack on Uganda
“We will not stand by while LGBT Ugandans are victimized, abused and murdered by a ruthless and corrupt government,” read a 2012 statement by Anonymous. That year, the shadowy group had leveled their operations at the Ugandan state in response to its discriminatory policies towards LBGT people. To make their point, moreover, the activists caused chaos on two government websites, including President Mugabe’s official site.
18. Hacking North Korea
In 2016 Anonymous associates the “New World Hackers” launched attacks against three North Korean government sites, in order to voice their anger after the country sent another satellite into orbit. What’s more, the cell also claimed that their hacking campaign had damaged 200 other sites. New World Hackers’ aim, in fact, was to impede North Korea’s ability to launch test rockets or missile attacks by disrupting communication systems.
17. Targeting Australia
Anonymous also crashed the official Parliament of Australia website in 2010 as a response to proposed internet censorship laws. The government’s aim had been to introduce a filter that would exclude adult websites. Anonymous, however, definitely didn’t like this, saying in an email, “The Australian government will learn that one does not mess with our porn.” So you could say that not all Anonymous actions are motivated by the purest ideals…
16. PlayStation fury
It can sometimes be hard to predict what will make Anonymous angry next, seeing how they have attacked such a wide range of targets. Indeed, in 2011 they decided to target Sony’s PlayStation website because of a company lawsuit against one George Hotz, who was being taken to court for altering a PS3 machine. Anonymous, in fact, thought this was so outrageous that they crashed the PlayStation website with a denial-of-service hack.
15. Outing the Ku Klux Klan
Now here’s an Anonymous campaign that pretty much everyone can get behind – unless, that is, you’re a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Yes, in November 2015 the hackers made the names of 350 Klansmen public. And though many of the individuals identified were already known to be Klan members, there’s surely no harm in a little extra publicity.
14. Oregon Tea Party raid
Since Anonymous have often campaigned against copyright restrictions in the past, it’s perhaps ironic that they went after the Oregon Tea Party for using a slogan belonging to them in July 2010. Indeed, the Tea Party folks blundered into this confrontation after it used the phrase “We Are Legion” on publicity material. Not too pleased with the conservative group’s appropriation of their catchphrase, Anonymous punished the Tea Party by vandalizing its Facebook page. What makes the whole episode especially bizarre, though, is that the “legion” quote actually derives from a passage in the Bible.
13. Operation Payback
Operation Payback was a series of denial-of-service attacks directed at pretty much anyone opposed to internet piracy, including pro-copyright groups, law companies and even individual citizens. The operation also came out in support of Wikileaks, hitting back at MasterCard when the corporation refused to process payments being sent to Julian Assange’s site.
12. Anonymous locked up
With all these high-profile campaigns, it might seem like the shadowy Anonymous legions work with impunity. However, that is by no means always the case. For example, in 2013 three Anonymous hackers from England received jail sentences for targeting Visa, PayPal and other companies. The PayPal attack, in fact, was said to have cost the payment service over $4 million.
11. Security firm slaughtered
In 2011 prominent security company HBGary believed that it had identified some of the top Anonymous hackers and was about to out them. But what happened next was fairly predictable – and extremely embarrassing for HBGary. Anonymous, of course, hacked the company’s servers, stole and publicized the firm’s emails and even defaced its website – deleting data, too, to add insult to injury. And since HBGary was then thought to be a leading expert in internet security, this made it look especially inept.
10. Operation China
Five Chinese hacktivists were apprehended in the aftermath of the 2015 anti-establishment protests in Hong Kong for allegedly carrying out a denial-of-service attack on an official government website. Without delay, however, Anonymous got in on the game, as the collective proceeded to bring down local government sites across China.
9. Operation Ferguson
The 2014 shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, became a worldwide cause célèbre. Consequently, Anonymous decided to join in with the protests in their own distinctive way. Ferguson City’s website was crashed, and Anonymous threatened to disseminate personal information about the St. Louis County police chief’s daughter. Whilethey didn’t carry out that particular threat, they did “dox” the chief – publishing his residential address and other personal details.
8. Hacking the Federal Reserve
You’d think that the U.S. Federal Reserve is arguably the most secure financial institution in the country. Or you would hope, at least. But whatever high-tech security measures the Fed uses, in 2013 Anonymous breached them, gaining access to the contact information of 4,000 senior bank officials. Anonymous didn’t manage to make off with any cash, but hacking the Federal Reserve is still quite a coup.
7. Operation Paris
The deadly 2015 attacks in Paris by ISIS triggered Anonymous’ decision to target the Islamist terror group. “Anonymous from all over the world will hunt you down,” read the group’s vaguely ominous statement. In fact, most of the activity has actually focused on rooting out and reporting terrorist sites and social media outlets.
6. Gay Pride for Isis
As well as identifying ISIS websites and social media, Anonymous found other ways to irritate and annoy the terrorist group. It’s well known that ISIS followers are viciously, even murderously, homophobic, so what better way to get under their skin then to use their Twitter accounts to promote Gay Pride? Indeed, in 2016 ISIS Twitter accounts were overwhelmed by cheerful rainbow symbols and messages promoting LGBT rights.
5. Operation Darknet
While some Anonymous campaigns are controversial, other causes they embrace are arguably much easier to support. One such initiative was the Operation Darknet of 2011 in which Anonymous infiltrated a dark web site where pedophiles reportedly exchanged child pornography. And not only did the hackers take the site down, but they also publicized the account details of 1,589 site frequenters.
4. Operation Tunisia
Much of the euphoria of the 2011 Arab Spring has now arguably evaporated. But at the time, Anonymous got involved in democracy campaigns in a number of North African and Arabic states. One of those was Tunisia, where the Arab Spring was born. During this operation, Anonymous hacktivists effected denial-of-service attacks on government websites and distributed instructions on how to hack while remaining – you guessed it – anonymous.
3. Hacking the President
Several observers, including the New York Times, have noted that President Trump apparently still relies on a Samsung smartphone – an easy win for hackers. Picking up on this, Anonymous actually released a step-by-step guide on Twitter describing how to hack into The Donald’s device. But has the President’s security detail thought of this and taken some action? Only time will tell.
2. Actions against the Westboro Baptist Church
If you haven’t come across the Westboro Baptist Church before, you’re lucky. All you need to know about the church is in the title of its website – GodHatesFags. Railing against homosexuals and members of the military alike, the Church’s followers are known to picket the funerals of deceased soldiers. In apparent retaliation against these views, then, a group identifying as Anonymous vandalized the church’s website. However, another faction of the hacktivist cell reportedly disagreed with the action, arguing that the Church were merely seeking attention and shouldn’t have been given the time of day.
1. Turning on Turner
If you like your characters colorful, then Hal Turner could be for you – though many find his views hard to stomach. A radio host linked to neo-Nazis and who for a time pursued a political career, Turner was later unmasked as an FBI informant. In any case, in 2006 he caught the attention of Anonymous, who were presumably angered by his extreme right-wing views. During their campaign against him, the group crashed Turner’s website and allegedly racked up his bandwidth bills into thousands of dollars.