Chances are you might have heard of the group “Anonymous” before, or at least recognised their Guy Fawkes masks. For those who don’t know, Anonymous is a decentralised, international hacker group that first appeared online in 2003. While the group’s origins are murky, it has been linked to multiple high profile cyberattacks and political operations over the past two decades, successfully hacking countless websites regardless of whether they have great data security. In the points below, we’ll explore the rise of Anonymous from its earliest days to its most recent activities over the last few years.
The Early Days of Anonymous
Anonymous made its first major appearance in 2008 when it attacked Church of Scientology websites in protest of the church’s strict regulations on sharing copyrighted material. This protest was followed by a series of high-profile cyberattacks on government websites, including those belonging to Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Zimbabwe and Iran. By 2011, Anonymous had become an international phenomenon with protests and demonstrations happening all over the world against oppressive governments and corporations.
In 2012, Anonymous shifted its focus to internet censorship and freedom of speech issues, launching a series of campaigns against countries like Russia and China (who had implemented restrictive laws on what people were allowed to post online, which still continues to this day). These campaigns were met with mixed results; while some countries softened their stance on censorship, others remained steadfast in their opposition to freedom of expression online.
At its peak in 2013-2014, Anonymous was involved in numerous high-profile operations such as supporting whistle-blowers like Edward Snowden and leaking documents from Sony Pictures after a massive hack attack by North Korea. During these years, they also launched large-scale attacks against banks, corporations and government agencies such as the NSA in order to expose corruption or unethical practices. However, since then the activity of Anonymous has dwindled significantly, with only sporadic operations taking place since 2015.
Anonymous – cybercriminals or vigilante group?
Everyone has their own opinion on how they perceive Anonymous and the actions the group carries out. Regardless, Anonymous will forever be remembered for their heroic acts of civil disobedience against oppressive governments around the world. They have been responsible for some of the most significant political changes over the past two decades and remain an inspiration for hackers everywhere who fight for freedom and justice online. Despite their decline in recent years, Anonymous still holds a special place in many people’s hearts as one of history’s most influential hacker groups.