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If you thought Anonymous limited its cyber attacks to those who blocked WikiLeaks or suppressed free information, you’d be wrong. One software security firm is learning the hard way that it also targets anyone who acts to bring down the loosely-knit, global movement of young people who campaign through Web attacks.
On Sunday evening, just when the Super Bowl was kicking off in Dallas, Texas, five supporters of Anonymous’ elite arm AnonOps brought down the Web site for HBGary Federal, a small, Washington D.C.-based security services firm.
What’s it like being the victim of an attack by Anonymous? Pretty unpleasant. Aaron Barr found that out yesterday when members of the loosely-knit online group of campaigners hacked into his Twitter account, brought down his company’s Web site and put more than 50,000 of his personal emails online.
Barr is the CEO of a tiny software security firm HBGary Federal based in Washington D.C., and had recently been perusing Facebook and IRC (chat) channels under a fake alias to gather covert research on Anonymous. Then he (sort of) took his findings public: Barr was quoted in the Financial Times a few days ago as saying he had uncovered names of senior figures of Anonymous, and denying he would deliver them to the police.
To his credit, Barr did not expect Anonymous’ reaction to be quite so ferocious. “I had expected some potential retribution,” he says. “I knew some folks would take my research as some kind of personal attack which it absolutely was not. I thought they might take down our Web site with a DDoS attack. I did not prepare for them to do what they did.”
For now Barr is working on damage control to his reputation as well as trying to make sense of what’s happened. “I just feel a bit exhausted by the whole thing,” he says. His biggest problem is the thousands of personal emails that have been released into cyberspace.
Barr adds that Anonymous is also not quite done with him. “They’re trying to pop my home router. I’m watching IP traffic and they’re trying to get my home box,” he says. “So I just unplugged it.”
At the center of the onion is nothing.