George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest
While the United States faces widespread civil unrest in dozens of cities, the “hacktivist” group Anonymous has returned from the shadows.
The hacker collective was once a fixture in the news, targeting those who accused of injustice with cyber attacks.
After years of relative quiet, it appears to have re-emerged in the wake of violent protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, promising to expose the city’s “many crimes” to the world.
However, it is not easy to define which, if nothing else, is truly the mysterious work of the group.
Who are the anonymous?
The “hacktivist” collective has no face or leadership. Its slogan is simply “we are legions”, referring to its alleged number of individuals.
Without any central command structure, anyone can claim to be part of the group.
This also means that members can have wildly different priorities and there is no single agenda.
But generally they are activists and target those they accuse of abusing power. They do it in very public ways, like hijacking websites or forcing them offline.
Their symbol is a Guy Fawkes mask, made famous by Alan Moore V’s graphic novel for Vendetta, in which an anarchist revolutionary wears the mask to overthrow a corrupt fascist government.
What steps have they taken?
Various forms of cyberattack are attributed to Anonymous in connection with George Floyd’s protests.
First, the Minneapolis police department website was temporarily taken offline over the weekend in a suspected Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
This is an unsophisticated but effective form of cyberattack that floods a data server until it can keep up and stop working – the same way shopping websites can go offline when too many people flood it. to trigger the product request.
There is also a database of e-mail addresses and passwords that claim to have been violated by the police department system and linked to Anonymous.
However, there is no evidence that police servers have been hacked and a researcher, Troy Hunt, says credentials were likely to have been compiled from old data breaches.
A page on the website of a United Nations junior agency was turned into a memorial for Mr Floyd, replacing its content with the message “Rest in Power, George Floyd”, along with an anonymous logo.
On Twitter, even unverified posts went viral, apparently showing police radios that play music and prevent communication.
However, experts suggest it is unlikely to be a hack and may instead be the result of a stolen piece of hardware that is seized by protesters on the scene, if the videos are authentic in the first place.
Anonymous activists are also spreading allegations of years against President Trump, drawn from documents in a court case that was voluntarily dismissed by the accuser before he was tried.
Is this return credible?
George Floyd’s death led to what New York BBC correspondent Nick Bryant described as the racial turbulence and civil unrest most prevalent since the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.
It is in this context that a Facebook page that claims to be connected to Anonymous has published a video on Mr Floyd’s death, accusing a series of other crimes involving the Minneapolis police and threatening to act.
The same Facebook page has posted similar videos on UFOs and the “Chinese plan for world domination” in recent weeks which – like George Floyd’s video – features an electronically masked voice that talks about previously published news.
But it received much wider attention after the Minneapolis police department website appeared to have been taken offline.
Is this the sort of thing Anonymous is known for?
The first major anonymous operation to make headlines was against the Church of Scientology in 2008, in which it used DDoS attacks to take some of the organization’s websites offline, along with prank calls and empty fax messages designed to interrupt their communications.
In the years that followed, following a global financial crisis, the group acted in support of the Arab Spring protest movements, hit Sony Entertainment in its attempt to crack down on the piracy of the PlayStation 3 console and supported Occupy Wall Street protests, including the others.
They continued to support similar causes and organized anti-institutional demonstrations around the world, but their importance in traditional media has diminished in recent years.
The revolutionary image and willingness to take on powerful entities, however, appear to strike a deal during the current crisis in the United States.