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Anonymous: why cyber-activists are again in the spotlight

by ace
Anonymous: why cyber-activists are again in the spotlight

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The collective had a regular presence in the press, promoting cyber-attacks against those who accuse them of injustice.

After years of relative silence, the group re-emerged amid protests in Minneapolis (USA) after the death of George Floyd, a black man strangled by a white policeman during an approach.

The collective promised to expose "many crimes" committed by the Minneapolis police to the world.

And, on Monday (1st), a Twitter account attributed to Anonymous Brasil released alleged personal data of President Jair Bolsonaro and his children, as well as government ministers, businessmen and politicians from Bolsonar.

  • Group of hackers leaks social media alleged personal data of Bolsonaro, children and ministers

Addresses, telephone numbers and property information were published. It is not known whether the information was true. Twitter deleted the posts and banned the group's profile for violating the platform's rules.

Despite the reappearance of Anonymous, it is not easy to discover what is really the collective's work. The published data does not differ much from what can be found freely on sites such as the Superior Electoral Court or the Transparency Portal.

The Minister of Justice and Public Security, André Mendonça, asked the Federal Police to investigate the leak. On Twitter, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub said he was the victim of a movement against "patriotic families".

"Our homes are no longer safe. They want to shut us up," he said.

The group has no leadership or formal structure. They define themselves as a "legion", claiming to be made up of a large number of individuals.

Without a central command, anyone can claim participation in the collective.

This means that members may have radically different priorities, and that the organization does not have a single agenda.

In general, they are activists who target those who consider using power negatively.

They act in a public manner, such as when they attack websites and take them down.

Its symbol is the Guy Fawkes mask, best known for the comic book V for Vendetta, in which an anarchist revolutionary fights a corrupt and fascist government.

Several forms of cyber-attack have been attributed to Anonymous in the case of protests over the death of George Floyd, in the USA.

First, the Minneapolis police website went down over the weekend after it reportedly suffered a DDoS attack (Distributed Denial of Service).

This is a simple yet effective form of cyber-attack that floods a server with data until it stops responding. This is what happens, for example, when many people enter a small site at once, taking it down.

A database of email addresses and passwords that would have been for members of the city's police department is circulating and is attributed to an Anonymous attack.

But there is no evidence that police officers have been hacked.

A page on a website of a small UN agency turned into a memorial for George Floyd. The content of the site was replaced by the message: "Rest in Power, rest with strength, George Floyd" with an Anonymous logo.

On Twitter, posts also went viral showing police radio stations apparently playing music and preventing communication between agents.

However, experts say this is unlikely to have been an attack. They say the music could be on some flash drive confiscated from protesters by police officers – if the videos are authentic.

Anonymous activists are also circulating long-standing accusations against President Donald Trump from a lawsuit that was voluntarily closed by those who accused the trustee.

Is the group's return credible?

George Floyd's death led to what the BBC's New York correspondent Nick Bryant described as the most comprehensive racial and civil upheaval in the United States since the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.

It was in this context that a Facebook page allegedly linked to Anonymous posted a video about Floyd's death, in which he cited other alleged crimes committed by the Minneapolis police, and threatened to act.

The same Facebook page has posted similar UFO videos and "China's plans for global domination" in recent weeks. In both these videos and Floyd's, an electronically distorted voice discussed stories on the topics.

But the page only received more attention after the Minneapolis police had their site down.

Is this the type of action that Anonymous is known for?

Anonymous's first major operation to make the news was against the Church of Scientology in 2008. The group used DDoS attacks to take down some of the organization's websites. Telephone prank calls and fax messages were also sent to disrupt the entity's communications.

The following year, in the midst of the global financial crisis, the group supported the Arab Spring movement and attacked the company Sony Entertainment for its attempt to prevent the hacking of PlayStation 3 platforms, in addition to supporting the Occupy Wall Street protests.

They continued to endorse similar causes and carried out acts against the establishment around the world, but their media projection has declined in recent years.

The revolutionary image and the desire to fight powerful entities, however, seem to have appeal in the current crises that the USA and Brazil are going through.

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