Attached below is a copy of my literature review essay. I feel fairly confident in my work and believe that I have incorporated most if not all of the changes you recommend I make. In our meeting you said I needed to have a more concise focus for a main idea as my draft’s main idea was very scattered and paragraphs did not seem to flow well from one topic to another. Also, my draft had very long, drawn out and often multi-topic ideas in them which could lead to confusion from the reader. You also said to put more emphasis on the writers in which I discussed and to use my sources more like my Coleman source. I made changes to all of the aspects above and hopefully made a stronger, more concise and spaced out essay. I did extend on Coleman a bit more which may seem like she is a dominant source, however, I also included another supporter, the Black Lives Matter Movement, as well as another opposer, HBGary. I also removed a source I did not feel was sufficiently reliable and replaced it with another source which helped build the beginning of my essay. I do believe that my introduction is a little long, however I feel like the idea of origins of hackers and defining their interpretations is important for setting up the main focus of my essay, which is Anonymous. Overall I am pleased with my paper and believe that it will be a strong foundation for the second essay of the class.
Hackers: Truth Seeking and Destructive
Hackers, people who break into electronic devices and manipulate them for their own benefit, have grown simultaneously with the use of technology. And while hackers may seem like a new thing, the term has been around for decades. Ben Yagoda, who teaches journalism at the University of Delaware and is a published author, wrote an article for the New Yorker describing the origins and possibly contrasting definitions of hackers. The most famous origin for hackers comes from the November 1963 version of M.I.T.’s newspaper, The Tech, which discussed how students were making long distance calls for free by changing where their charge would be sent and other technological feats (Yagoda). It was only twelve years later that the Jargon File, “a glossary for computer programmers,” created eight separate definitions for the word hacker (Yagoda). Of the eight definitions made, two stand out among them, one calling a hacker a person who “enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities,” while the other calls a hacker a “malicious meddler who tries to discover sensitive information by poking around” (Yagoda). While the years have brought many advancements in technology, the views of hackers has not particularly changed, especially when considering Anonymous. Anonymous is a group of hackers of all ages who, without a particular rank or set system of organization, work together to promote social justice by their own means. Anonymous has been active for at least half a decade and in that time has made as many enemies as friends.
Anonymous and its supporters consider the group hacktivists. Hacktivists are hackers who participate in events with a mindset of promoting social justice. Anonymous, with years of experience and growth, is one of the most prominent hacking organizations in the world, believes it has always fought for social justice. Anthropologist Gabriella Coleman, who has done years of research on Anonymous and even published a book which speaks of their positive endeavors, supports their beliefs as leaders in the world of promoting justice.
Coleman’s beginnings with Anonymous date back to the days of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) popularity as the early foundation of Anonymous was just beginning to establish through these online chat groups. Coleman specifically recalls her initial connections to Anonymous members, when they gained public attention in December of 2010 after only previously being known for online pranks, in an article she wrote for the Limn (Coleman). In the article, Coleman describes her hidden obsession for the group and how she suddenly came into contact with members of Anonymous after being kicked from an IRC chat where the three members present could not confirm who she was (Coleman). After this incident, Coleman was able to apologize and began talking to the members until she eventually got so close that she felt she was almost a member of Anonymous herself (Coleman).
Coleman describes how since 2008, Anonymous has “undertaken a series of “ops,” protesting everything from Internet censorship by dictatorships during the Arab Spring, to PayPal’s refusal to process payments to WikiLeaks, to the rape of a high-school girl in Steubenville, Ohio” (Chen). And Anonymous does a lot more than just good deeds every now and then as Coleman believes that Anonymous can even be defined as a benevolent mentality. Coleman explains how Anonymous’ lack of specific organization between its members allows the collective group to thrive, especially when people wear the famous “Guy Fawkes mask,” which allows people to “act out the secret desire to cast off--at least momentarily--the shackles of normality,” which gives people “the will to power set to collectivist and altruistic goals” (Chen).
The collectivist mentality Gabriella Coleman describes of Anonymous remains true throughout most of Anonymous’ activities, which is especially shown in their recent support of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM). Jason Murdock, a journalist for IBTimes with a focus on technology and cybersecurity, discusses Anonymous’ support of BLM as the group declared “a day of solidarity” through a youtube video (Murdock). The video consists of expressing the groups’ anger with the lack of action on the side of law enforcements and discussing how the group will no longer remain quiet about the issue, enforcing a call to action from Anonymous supporters, many of whom consist of Black Lives Matter supporters (Murdock). And yet, while the group is very active in the United States, their actions overseas are also appreciated, particularly by French supporters.
CNBC correspondent, Holly Ellyatt, reports how Anonymous declared war on the terrorist group ISIS after the recent terrorist attack in Paris which killed over a hundred people (Ellyatt). The group has provided various instructions on how they will personally take on the ISIS threat, bringing a new hope to those who have been affected by ISIS’ destructive behavior (Ellyatt). This group that used to be considered troublemakers on the internet have evolved to being a global force that can support nations and groups as a whole, taking on anything from a local town’s dilemma to one of the most prominent terrorist groups in the world.
However, while Anonymous has certainly achieved a lot in their most recent years that has garnered the support of social justice activists, those impacted by terrorism and long-time supporters like Gabriella Coleman, their track record is far from clean. Depending on a person’s profession or even socioeconomic background, Anonymous may be considered a villain throughout their existence, especially if a person works for the government, private sector or a security corporation. Also, their own social justice views greatly differ from a lot of people and the group only acts when they see it necessary, unmoved by anyone else’s agenda or prioritization of global issues.
Anonymous has a history of consistently hacking corporations which they felt were hiding something from the public eye that needed exposure. Anonymous lives off the idea that nothing should remain hidden and that the private sector is full of corruption, similar to the views of many average citizens in the United States. And so, because of so many attacks from Anonymous and similar groups, large corporations have developed an extensive amount of hatred and equal amount of fear of hackers. This disdain in Anonymous and hackers in general has led to the rise of hired hackers. Seung Lee, a writer for Newsweek’s Tech and Science branch, describes an example of benevolent hackers, known as “white hat hackers” (Lee). Lee explains how these hackers were made prominent by large corporations that feared their security systems were viable to get hacked, and so they began hiring hackers to try and find cracks in their systems so that they could be fixed before a malevolent hacker, like Anonymous, tried to break through (Lee). This preventative-measure synergy of hacker and hacked benefits both parties and attempts to maintain higher level of security ultimately for the consumer’s sake. But although hackers are all different and all have their own objectives, activities or desires, it is easy to try and generalize the them under one large umbrella of either good or bad.
And while the precautions and negative feelings large corporations have may seem exaggerated, the 2011 Anonymous attack on HBGary may say otherwise. HBGary is a very famous security firm with past connections to government, like the NSA, other famous security firms, like McAfee, and even the capital giant Apple (Bright). Peter Bright, a technology editor who works for Ars Technica and writes about programming, software development and security, provides the details about how HBGary began its feud with Anonymous. Aaron Barr, the CEO of HBGary Federal, an offshoot of HBGary that was also affected by Anonymous, contacted a higher-up in the Anonymous organization stating that he had uncovered the identities of many Anonymous members who participated in the 2010 attack on MasterCard, Visa, Paypal and other corporations after they refused to keep funding Wikileaks (Bright). It was very soon after Barr’s talk with the Anonymous member that HBGary began getting attacked as it’s “servers were broken into, its e-mails pillaged and published to the world, its data destroyed, and its websites defaced” (Bright). HBGary and HBGary Federal, which are considered “experts in computer security” and “offer both software and services to both the public and private sectors,” were humiliated by the attack and put to shame as Anonymous, a group with a large amount of teenage members, easily broke into their systems and showed the rest of the private sector that they are not safe. It only makes sense that HBGary and other corporations like it are angry with the growth of Anonymous and hackers in general as the group consistently brings trouble even as groups like HBGary try to promote justice by exposing hidden hackers and hackers who just want to stir up trouble.
Anonymous is more than just a group of like-minded individuals who all work together to achieve a certain goal, whether or not they are successful. Anonymous has evolved into a mentality of exposing information. And because some members of Anonymous are more radical and inclined to achieve this goal, sub-groups of Anonymous, like AntiSec, develop consistently. And while some sub-groups take a long time before they attempt major projects, AntiSec was quick to strike with their hacking of 12 million user Apple ID’s in 2012. All Things Digital writer, Arik Hesseldahl, who has written many articles for the technological news source since 2010, describes how the hacker organization AntiSec, which is a deviation from Anonymous, declared that they got access of 12 million user accounts from Apple’s network through hacking an FBI computer, which would incite claims that the FBI has access to user’s information even though Apple was very stern in promising the privacy of individuals (Hesseldahl). This would have been a major deal that would tie back to government surveillance of citizens similar to the NSA exposure from Edward Snowden, if the case was real. However, Hesseldahl writes about how the FBI soon came out to the public saying that no records were stolen and that these accusations were false (Hesseldahl). AnitSec’s public announcement of its attack, or lack thereof, would shock many people and build up disapproval from the public of hacker activities since to some people, hackers never necessarily work in the public’s interest and can even try to exploit the public, through stealing public information and other similar acts, to achieve something else that may not help the public in the end. Major news sources like USA Today are also not a big fan of hackers since the news outlet had to change its articles with short apologetic-edits like “The FBI says there is ‘no evidence indicating that an FBI laptop was compromised’ by the hacker group AntiSec” (Blair). False comments about hacking make the media look foolish and unreliable to the public, further building the community of those who do not approve of AntiSec, Anonymous and hackers in general.
Anonymous has no boundaries and that in itself can be scary or reassuring to people. Coleman may see the Anonymous collective effort as beneficial and may condone their growth as a formidable group while the FBI or leaders of security corporations, like Aaron Barr, may see hackers as frightening foes who do joke around and make allegations of hacking things they did not really hack but who also break into major corporations’ systems and expose tons of raw data for the public to see. There are certainly people who see Anonymous as a neutral force but these people remain in low numbers as Anonymous does little to remain neutral since most of their actions are either blatantly destructive or beneficial. While it may only seem beneficial for Anonymous to attack ISIS, it also takes away credibility from the U.S. government which puts extensive time and resources into fighting this very dangerous threat. In such a sporadic group as Anonymous which can change based on how a collective may feel and have the power to invade national-grade security systems, it makes sense that fear exists in everyone’s hearts, even in those who support Anonymous.
Blair, Nancy. "Hackers Claim Breach of FBI Laptop Nets Apple Device IDs." USA Today. Gannett, 04 Sept. 2012. Web. 01 Oct. 2016.
Bright, Peter. "Anonymous Speaks: The Inside Story of the HBGary Hack." Ars Technica. 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
Chen, Adrian. "The Truth About Anonymous's Activism." The Nation. 29 June 2015. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.
Coleman, Gabriella. "Am I Anonymous?" Limn. 06 May 2012. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.
Ellyatt, Holly. "'Anonymous' Hackers Declare War on Islamic State." CNBC. 17 Nov. 2015. Web. 01 Oct. 2016.
Hesseldahl, Arik. "FBI Says AntiSec Hackers Lied About List of IPhone ID Numbers." AllThingsD. 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.
Lee, Seung. "Good Hackers Are Losing the Internet War to Bad Hackers, Experts Say." Newsweek. Newsweek LLC, 13 May 2016. Web. 02 Oct. 2016
Murdock, Jason. "Anonymous Declares 'day of Solidarity' with Black Lives Matter to Protest Police Brutality." International Business Times RSS. 11 July 2016. Web. 04 Oct. 2016.
Yagoda, Ben. "A Short History of “Hack”." The New Yorker. 06 Mar. 2014. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.