Anonymous and the modern day spy fiction :)

I have been too busy to post for the last few days, but luckily not too busy to read. For all fans of Ian Fleming and Len Deighton, I recommend reading the HBGary-Anonymous saga which Ars Technica has been covering over the past few weeks. Anonymous is the hacktivist collective which recently espoused the cause of Wikileaks by taking down the sites like PayPal and Visa when they shut off services to the site.

Now the spotlight is back on Anonymous thanks to their spat with a US based security agency called HBGary. The story unfolds like a modern day spy novel. HBGary apparently produces malware, rootkits, viruses, socially engineered profiles - but is on the side of the angels, since this is done in the interest of counter-cyber terrorism. Or is it? The lines seem to blur as you read more about their activities. Anyway, to cut a long story short, their CEO, Aaron Barr, tried to track down the Anonymous ringleaders and claimed to have gotten some of their identities.

Retribution was swift and ruthless, as Anonymous captured HBGary's mail server, shut down their website and published their emails. The emails of the company revealed that they were engaged in several dubious proposals including one to Amex to target WikiLeaks. Of course, there is no evidence that anyone has actually done anything shady yet, but what is proposed is shady enough. Needless to say, potential clients and business associates dropped HBGary like a hot potato.

You can read the entire saga on Ars. Many thanks to the site, and to Nate Andersen, Peter Bright and the folks at Ars for putting together these absorbing features. Inspires me to get back to novel writing. Maybe I was waiting to write a 22nd century tech-hack-spy fic!

How one man tracked down Anonymous
Nate Andersen writes about how Aaron Barr set out to expose Anonymous

Aaron Barr meets Anonymous face to face
Chat transcripts show the virtual 'clash' between the CEO of HBGary and the Anon folks in a chatroom

The Plan to attack Wikileaks
Aaron Barr's  social media skills revealed - the guy could 'scrape' facebook profiles to put together a complete picture of any potential target. Reading this was when my lines between good and evil blurred. :) As it does when you read spy fiction!

The Inside Story of the HBGary Hack 

For the technically minded, Peter Bright puts together a detailed description of how Anonymous systematically went about avenging itself on Aaron Barr and HBGary

Of course, there are a few more but these are my favorite links. Hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do. Personally, the whole expose made me think a lot about how vulnerable we have made ourselves because of the Internet. Our new precious possessions are not just the ones lying at home. It is our gmail accounts, facebook profiles and the tonnes of personal data, photographs and opinions that we spew out in huge quantities over the years. Cheerfully, not aware that some patient person somewhere can put everything together. Without knowing us, without meeting us, this person can put together our likes, dislikes, family profile, know what irritates us, know what medical problems we have, what's our kids' names....the list is endless. And use all of this against us, to control our online presence, to leak our confidential information - which can be much more traumatic than someone breaking into your house and committing a petty crime. Someone shadowy who controls you online, is way scarier than a thief who wants to make some money. What do you think?

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