Much drama went on in the world of Anonymous this week, as the major meeting hub AnonOps is decimated from the inside.
Anonymous, that elusive and unnameable group of trolls, is best known for their public demonstrations against Scientology and their hacking of websites such as the Westboro Baptist Church. A recent attack by the faceless organization targeted Sony, revealing the personal information of some employees and shutting down the PlayStation Network for a week. This action was supposedly in protest against the music and entertainment industry which supports the controversial DMCA.
This week, however, there was mutiny in the ranks. One hacker known as Ryan (also identified as “viraL” or simply “v”) staged a coup with a small force, obliterating AnonOps.net and AnonOps.ru. These websites were essentially communication hubs that were used to disseminate information and, more importantly, hosted the AnonOps IRC servers, which, despite the allegedly decentralized nature of Anonymous, were often used as a center for communication and planning of “Operations,” their various attacks on real or perceived enemies. Ryan (now known to be 17-year-old Ryan Cleary of England [correction: Cleary may actually be 21 years of age]) owns the domain names above, among others. At the time of writing, they redirected to a Google sites page containing heaps of IP addresses and private message logs, many of them revealing tragically insecure passwords.
In rapid succession, three articles appeared on Thinq.co.uk, a tech news website, apparently tipped off by Ryan himself. They even gave him an exclusive interview in which he postures himself as the good guy. Thinq’s reporting leaves a bit to be desired, as they indicate Cleary is “alleged to be behind the revamped ‘Oh Internet’ relaunch of notorious shock site Encyclopedia Dramatica” when in reality he has nothing to do with Oh Internet! aside from attacking it with botnets and nothing to do with the now defunct Encyclopedia Dramatica. In Thinq’s interview, Cleary alleges that a handful of AnonOps users led and controlled the rest, and that ”[t]he only way to make things safe is to make users aware how insecure it is.” when speaking about his actions. Ironically, the insecurity in this case was allowing Cleary to have any responsibility or control over the servers. Other AnonOps users countered, stating that Cleary was a bully, often threatening them with a large botnet he allegedly controls. Thanks to his ego and behavioral problems, he is now being targeted by other Anonymous, and is likely on Sony’s radar as well.
All in all, the entire situation can be summed up as teenage IRC drama, which has occurred as long as there has been IRC and people to argue over who gets control. Cleary, upset that he wasn’t in the limelight, took his ball and went home, much to everyone’s dismay. Other AnonOps admins were quick to post a rebuttal, explaining what had happened as they gathered up other domain names and attempted to rebuild their IRC infrastructure, warning users to avoid Cleary’s potentially compromising sites at all costs.
Meanwhile, a certain notorious wiki watchdog has been quietly doing his homework, linking Cleary to attacks on Sony, as well as a major outage at budget webhost Dreamhost, long before any other media outlets caught on.
Is it true that the internet cannot be left to police itself?