I saw that hacktivist group Anonymous made headlines today, but based on the various articles’ comments, Anonymous is being hailed as a hero, not a demon. Anonymous has claimed responsibility for hacking into the Twitter accounts of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church and posting the usual names, emails, addresses and other personal information found online. Forbes also reported that Anonymous took down the church’s website.
The Westboro Baptist Church is the organization that regularly shows up to picket at the funerals of soldiers killed in the Middle East and at the funerals or vigils of high-profile tragedies. They have planned protests in Newtown, Conn., this weekend and in coming days. For this reason, Anonymous is being hailed as a hero for its actions.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t smile a little when I heard this news. My own community was targeted by the Westboro Baptist Church last year, and I’m right up there with millions of others who want to see this group stopped. However, as I continued to read the comments, I paused because I realized that as people applauded the efforts of Anonymous the hackers were wrong.
What they did to this organization was no different from what they have done the past few years to government agencies, large corporations and defense contractors. The members of Anonymous set out to make a statement against an organization they didn’t agree with and put the personal information of innocent people in jeopardy. Just because we disagree with the organization targeted doesn’t mean what Anonymous did was right, either. In fact, what Anonymous did was illegal — a point that was made with another article posted today by InformationWeek that discussed how law-enforcement agencies pursue suspected Anonymous members.
Hacktivist groups aren’t good guys. If they don’t like you, they will hit you with DDoS attacks, grab data from files in your network and cause a lot of damage. I am reminded of a scene in one of my favorite childhood books, where chaos is ensuing and the main character opines that the chaos is happening in part because she smiled at an act of naughtiness. Is that what we’re doing with Anonymous and its actions against the Westboro Baptist Church?
If you are one of those smiling, are you also sure that your network doesn’t have a vulnerability that provides an opening for hackers? If it does, you may not be smiling for long.