The Infiltration of Anonymous
Writing for Wired Magazine, Quinn Norton brings us the story of how Anonymous was born, developed into a hacking force, and was subsequently infiltrated by the FBI:
Sabu’s arrest cut to the heart of what Anonymous claimed to be, of how it claimed to organize itself. Or, more accurately: its claim that it did not organize itself, that it had no leaders and yet boasted participants so innumerable (“We are Legion,” as one of its popular slogans blares) that no ten or hundred or thousand arrests could ever stop it. But in Sabu the FBI had nabbed an anon who was not easy to replace. No one could deny he had served as a crucial force in many of 2011′s most spectacular hacking campaigns. Presumably the anons arrested on the evidence he helped gather were talented hackers, too. For years, when anyone tried to claim they had uncovered the leader, or leaders, of Anonymous, the group’s members would belittle them online and then sometimes hack them for good measure. Now, with these arrests, Anonymous’ whole self-conception was being put to the test.
The possibility that Anonymous might be telling the truth—that it couldn’t be shut down by jailing or flipping or bribing key participants—was why it became such a terrifying force to powerful institutions worldwide, from governments to corporations to nonprofits. Its wild string of brilliant hacks and protests seemed impossible in the absence of some kind of defined organization. To hear the group and its defenders talk, the leaderless nature of Anonymous makes it a mystical, almost supernatural force, impossible not just to stop but to even comprehend. Anons were, they liked to claim, united as one and divided by zero—undefined and indefinable.