By now, you are likely familiar with the basics of Anonymous - what is, what it does, and why. The last six months or so of activity, ranging from Operation Tunisia to the HBGary onslaught to our various activities in support of Wikileaks, have prompted a great deal of press coverage, much of it surprisingly accurate - largely due to the fact that some of us now talk regularly to reporters, who are themselves always permitted to watch us at work at the IRC server from which many of our operations are launched. But despite our somewhat ironic transparency, there remain a few points of misunderstanding that we encounter when it comes time to recruit - which is to say that many skilled and well-meaning people who would find themselves right at home in our movement have refrained from considering us an option due to myths which may quite easily be cleared up. As such, I've composed the following FAQ by which to address those myths along with common questions and concerns that we often encounter.
Q. Do I have to be a hacker to join Anonymous?
A. Not only do you not have to be a hacker; you need not have any technical skills whatsoever. Anonymous is often referred to as a "hacker group" or, more insufferably, as comprised of "hacktivists," largely because our work is conducted almost entirely via the internet as well as due to the fact that many of our campaigns have involved DDOS attacks against the websites of tyrannical governments. Meanwhile, several of the most successful and thus visible actions conducted by Anonymous, including the HBGary matter, did indeed rely on some degree of hacking talent to pull off. But very few Anonymous participants are actually hackers themselves, and very little of our work actually involves hacking. Increasingly, Anonymous is in the business of fighting tyranny and advocating liberty by other means, almost all of which involve information. Our fight draws upon a variety of skill sets; our participants draw upon the common conviction that the sacrifices made by others to secure our relative liberty merits the far lesser sacrifice of our time and efforts to restore that liberty. Anyone can contribute; everyone should.
Q. Don't you guys commit crimes?
A. We might ask the same of you. Have you ever smoked or possessed marijuana? Have you ever participated in an "unlawful" demonstration outside of some designated "free speech zone"? Have you ever provided liquor to a college student who was old enough to join a military that is forever misused and deployed and then forgotten but not yet old enough to legally have a drink? Have you ever lied to the American people about the reasons for the war to which you plan on sending that same young fellow, and spent so much time publicly attacking those who question your competence that you just plain forgot to write up a viable plan by which to conduct the war itself, thereby causing the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of people?
Three of those things will get you arrested, and the fourth will get you re-elected.
Anonymous is a great supporter of the rule of law and we look forward to seeing it implemented some day.
Q. Seriously, though.
A. Anonymous participants have engaged in DDOS attacks against several U.S. institutions including MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, all three of which simultaneously refused to process customer donations to Wikileaks at the behest of the federal government. All three are inextricably linked to that same government by way of lobbyists, campaign contributions, PACs, and, in the case of PayPal's executives, the intelligence community (it's a long story). All three had long been more than happy to process payments to any number of demonstrably reprehensible entities such as the Klu Klux Klan. And thus it was that Anonymous launched an operation by which to bring attention to an incident that would have otherwise gone largely unnoticed, one that is emblematic of the dangerous alliance between powerful financial institutions and the state apparatus. The actual websites had no connection to transactions and thus no merchants or customers were inconvenienced in any real way; rather, it was a symbolic act that rendered the main corporate websites inaccessible for less than a day. In response, the FBI raided the homes of 40 U.S. suspects out of an estimated tens of thousands who participated. Having organized pro bono legal defense for those affected, I can relate that in at least one case an entire family was herded into their living room by agents with guns drawn; that computers, phones, and other equipment were seized as evidence not just from the suspect but also from parents; and that despite repeated requests, a warrant was not presented until after the suspect - a nineteen-year-old female student with a part-time job - had been thoroughly questioned about her involvement in an incident in which websites were brought down for a few hours.
Nothing of the sort has happened to anyone involved in the Iraq War or the bank bailout.
Yes, Anonymous participants commit crimes.
Q. I'm not comfortable engaging in DDOS attacks.
A. DDOS attacks are only one method by which Anonymous operates, and the vast majority of such attacks have been directed at the online assets of dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, and the like.
Q. What else does Anonymous do?
A. For the most part, our campaigns involve bringing attention to matters that desperately need it. After an investigation by Anonymous revealed that several respected federal intelligence contractors had conspired on behalf of Bank of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to harass journalist Glenn Greenwald, investigate the families of union leaders, and DDOS Wikileaks (ah, the rule of law), some of us within Anonymous partnered with an array of journalists to pursue another line of inquiry that grew out of the documents we acquired from the degenerate firm HBGary - that the U.S. government and other parties had been developing software by which a single person could control a great number of fake online personas for the purpose of propaganda. Although CENTCOM has since denied that such virtual armies are being used against Americans, the conduct of those contractors that had bid on that particular project has convinced most everyone concerned that any firm developing those capabilities would most likely provide them to major corporations for the right price. Anonymous thereafter began compiling data and, with the help of several informants, learned that such capabilities were indeed already in use by a number of parties and combined with more conventional yet advanced methods of mass surveillance with devastating results for anonymity, privacy, and the integrity of online political dialog - a situation that will only get worse unless it is confronted head-on by those who feel the duty to help protect those values. As more journalists look into the issue, Anonymous has launched a crowd-sourced investigation called Operation Metal Gear by which to research the issue and prompt greater media coverage that the public may have a chance to decide for itself if it thinks that such practices are a plus for transparency and decency. Among other things, we have established a wiki to which any interested party may contribute and which journalists and activists now draw upon in their ongoing research.
If you'd like to support Anonymous in our work, you may easily do so via these instructions, which includes information on using IRC to connect to our main base of operations at Anonops. A list of tools that are of use to anyone conducting our style of "information warfare" against corrupt institutions or engaging in activism of any sort may be found here. If you are interested in establishing a small team by which to engage in online activism either within Anonymous or on your own, this guide may be of use. An op-ed we composed regarding our work in assisting with revolutions in the Arab world may be seen here. If you have any questions about Anonymous, you may leave a comment here or e-mail me at email@example.com. Thank you for considering our movement.