Remember Anonymous' call to speak with our feet against CISPA? How's that working out for ya?

By | May 16, 2012

Posted in: Network Security Trends

I haven’t really had a chance to check in on Anonymous’ planned physical protests against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) announced in a five-minute plus video (but feeling as interminable M. Night Shyamalan film) shortly after the U.S. House of Representatives passed it late last month. The cyber crusaders called, in succession in early May, for organized physical protests at your nearest AT &T (which the digitized voice pronounced “At and Tee”), IBM and Intel headquarters. I hadn’t seen anything on the news, but assume that CNN, Fox and Al Jazeera had suppressed the news of the mass demonstrations.

Microsoft is next on the list, starting this week through Saturday, but I’ll be busy, so Verizon Wireless, Sunday through Saturday, seems like my best bet. Anonymous has made this really convenient for the masses, giving us the option to protest at Verizon retail outlets if we don’t have a nearby HQ. Besides, I am overdue for an upgrade on my 30-month-old Motorola Droid, and I’ve been meaning to get over there to look into a new 4G phone.

If that goes well, Bank of America is up next, and there’s a branch (with actual tellers and loan officers) about five miles from my home. I wonder if it’s still OK to draw cash from the ATM while you're there. Later in June, we’re supposed to boycott buying products from Pepsi, a matter of profound indifference, as I buy either Coke or Pepsi, depending what is on sale. After that, starting in mid-June, we’re urged to speak with our wallets by boycotting notorious freedom-hating, CISPA-loving Target, Walmart and CVS. I’ll try to stay away from Target and Walmart, depending on coupons, but my allergy prescriptions are at CVS and it’s the season. Besides, I get discounts on my Extracare card, based on how much I spend.

Seriously, what were whatever members of the loosely associated hive mind of Anonymous who formulated this strategy thinking?

First, street protest just isn’t Anonymous’ thing. They have neither the organization nor, apparently, the aptitude for it. Just declaring a series of protests on YouTube won’t make it so. Effective street protests, spontaneous outbursts in outrage over some atrocity or other notwithstanding, take some organization, preparation and feet on the ground to help make it happen and give it some shape. Anonymous has none of that.

Further, there’s the misguided idea that the best way to get participation was to offer multiple targets over two months at a convenient location (I was hoping Kmart was on the list so I could use “Attention Kmart shoppers”). Much better to pick one or two targets in major population centers (and a little advanced notice). If you call for protests everywhere, at any time, you are likely to get protests nowhere, at no time. They are as they say, Anonymous, but perhaps not, at least in terms of getting away from the computer and hitting the streets, "legion."

Anonymous has demonstrated a talent for pulling off distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against high-profile target government and commercial sites and, at times, hacking into the victims’ networks and stealing a lot of data. The video closes with the threat to “send a strong, swift message” to Mastercard, VISA and American Express June29-30. I suspect that means Anonymous reverting to what Anonymous does best.

The video declares that Operation Defense Phase 2 — protesting with our feet instead of our mice and keyboards — is necessary because organizations have beefed up their ability to stop DDoS attacks and are getting harder to bring down. That’s not what I am seeing. On the contrary, I continue to be surprised and a bit disappointed that organizations that know they are likely targets continue to be taken down, sometimes more than once.

I suspect that this ineffectual call to action is more a consequence of the failure of the DDoS attacks to make a difference, and, perhaps, the result of the chilling effect of a number of arrests. Maybe the next ploy will be to threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue.

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