Saturday, February 18, 2012


I recently read the “Millennium” series by Stieg Larsson. The first book in the series is called “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and stars a brilliant young hacker named Lisbeth Salander. You can watch the trailer here. Lisbeths skills as a hacker play a large role in the books and films, she is a member of a group of elite hackers called the hacker republic. However, the book is clear to distinguish these hackers from the kind of people who write viruses and malware. These are the good guy hackers.  Another recent mention of a hacker in pop culture was on the television show Bones. In the most recent episode one of the suspects for a murder was a self termed “hacktivist”, or someone who is only a hacker for a cause. Then there is Anonymous.
                Probably the most famous of hackers these days, Anonymous is not a single hacker at all, it is a group of hackers that wear the Guy Fawkes masks to conceal their identity.  I first became aware of this group when they came out in support of wiki leaks and the whole debacle over the thousands of classified U.S. documents that were released on that website. Since then it has been almost impossible to go a week without hearing news story about this group of hackers. They claim to have no leader, to be just a random collection of do-gooders that happen to be very good working with computers. They do things like hack credit card company websites and bank websites, fighting against the tyranny of “the man”. They even hacked several people’s finances and donated the money to the Red Cross and other charitable organizations.  They have adopted the mask of Guy Fawkes because it is a symbol of protest against the establishment and seem to be closely aligned with other protests such as Occupy Wall Street.

                As much as Anonymous tries to project an image of activism and protest, as a citizen I find it hard to picture them as anything but a cyber terrorist group, and not just because they took down the Playstation Network. Recently they have hacked into several high profile government sites including and supposedly hacking into an FBI conference call where they were the subject of conversation. As a criminal justice major and former Marine, I can’t see the CIA and FBI as anything but the good guys. That automatically puts Anonymous on the side of evil (if we are going by comic book logic). Anonynous seems to be carrying out these attacks for the simple reason that they can. They have no concept of the consequences, probably because it seems like the establishment they are fighting against can’t seem to do anything about them. However, if you like conspiracy theories, there has been some speculation that they could actually be a front for Chinese or Russian operations against the U.S. Whatever they are, it seems like they are here to stay for awhile.
                All this attention that has suddenly come up about hackers got me thinking about how much of my life is currently accessible through digital formats and the security risks of having so much of my information out on the World Wide Web.  Since I read a lot of fiction like the Stieg Larsson novels mentioned earlier it was not hard for my imagination to get carried away. I do my banking mostly online; I could become a pauper in the click of a mouse. My social circles are available for perusal on Facebook as well as my actual location at some times. Someone could take one look at my Facebook page and know who my entire family is. A person with the wrong motivations could hack my life and destroy everything I have worked hard to obtain. Databases for arrest warrants and priors are online, one click and I’m suddenly a felon. O.K., maybe that is an exaggeration, but as our lives get more and more digitized criminal justice professionals need to consider the ramifications to future crime trends. In the future crimes like pick pocketing may be as obsolete as VHS. All someone would need to do in the future to steal someone’s money and identity is a computer. Anonymous could be just the start of a whole new era for crime, one which we seem at present to be unable to effectively control.
Here are some links to Wikipedia that you may find informative.


  1. I agree that although Anonymous is being portrayed as a modern day Robin Hood, one who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, these individuals are still extremely dangerous criminals. As technology continues to evolve and more of our personal information is floating around in cyberspace, the threat of having our identities stolen away from us without our knowledge is a very scary thought.

    A close friend of mine had her identity stolen from a salesclerk in Florida. My friend bought clothing from a store in Illinois with her credit card and a salesclerk in Florida for the same clothing chain obtained her credit card information from the computer network and went on a shopping spree. Thankfully local police were able to assist the police in Florida and catch this individual.

    Technology has made our lives easier and given us much more entertainment than ever before. But are the rewards of a more convenient life worth having our identity and money stolen? I worry every time I swipe my credit card and pay my bills online that someone is going to steal my life savings and ruin my credit. The only hope to deter and catch hackers is to have law enforcement agencies put more resources into fighting cyber criminals.

  2. very interesting. This was the first time I have heard of this group, but your points are very good. I believe this is the direction crime is heading because people to me have become "electronic" because we are addicted to everything electronic, we use online banking, online socialization, online shopping. If it doesn't have internet or WiFi we don't want it. This has to add up somewhere. I feel Americans need to rethink this cyber use and put a little restriction on some websites because they expect you to enter a lot of information which has to be readily available to those who can manipulate a computer.

    Take Facebook for example, they change their privacy settings more then people change their underwear. Like you said Josh, we readily conform to these websites because we want to stay connected to everyone else and to our circle of friends, but how far is too far for these websites? its very interesting and your PlayStation example was good, I had just gotten a PS3 two days before this "event" occurred and I spent a good 20-30 dollars on PS3 online content. It truly makes you wonder, am I being used or am I a pawn?

    great article

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  3. This is a really good article! I had also never heard of this group before I read this, but I looked them up and what they are doing is really interesting. I agree with you that I can't see them in any other way than the "bad guys." As a future police officer, one of the specific areas that interests me is cyber-crime, and this is a great example of that. Like you said in your article, so much of our lives revolves around the internet, so we make it very easy for people with bad intentions to find out information about us. No matter how careful you are with your privacy settings, etc. on websites, social networking, and more, cyber-crime is a constant concern for law enforcement in today's society.

  4. Great post. I think Anonymous is an interesting group because of its organizational structure (or lack thereof), the act as a disjointed collective to achieve political ends. I think they straddle the borderline of activism and terrorist organization. Many of their actions seem like they have moral and political motivations. I don't think its motivated as much by monetary gain. They seem willing to go to jail for an open and free internet, which is an usual cause to do such for.

  5. Very interesting post. A real life V for Vendetta type of group. These guys are very skilled and these skills can potentially pose a threat to national security. At one point I remember reading that the group had a member abducted by a drug cartel and they threatened to release the names of all the police on the payroll if their member was not returned. My question is, if they could do that the government should look at throwing some money to these guys or donating to their favorite charity for them to find out which cops are dirty. I always like to root for the underdog or the robin hood, but I just hope they do not hurt the United States by releasing secret information.

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