The online ‘hacktivists’ give us some of their time, and access to some astonishing information.
We are hacktivist
We hack to let people know our message
Online crusaders and vigilante group Anonymous have been on a rampage in India taking down the Big Cinemas website and other Reliance-affiliated and owned company websites, after the ISP blocked sites like The Pirate Bay and Vimeo and many more (take a look at this compilation of all the sites blocked by Reliance here) on the back of a Madras High Court order (read the order here) issued in response to a John Doe complaint regarding the possible digital piracy of the Tamil film 3. We spoke to a few Anonymous members to find out more about their targets, their intentions, their philosophy and just to get to know them better.
As soon as The Ed threw me on to the job of getting in touch with Anonymous on Tuesday, May 22, I had no idea where to begin. If the government agencies and the authorities can’t get a hold of these guys, how was I supposed to? Well, I logged on Twitter and sent them a tweet.
I was in.
Soon the entire NH7 team crowded around my computer to banter with three of the Anonymous members, whose IRC chat IDs – let alone names – will remain anonymous. Let’s call them Anon1, Anon2 and Anon3. Here is our very informative and enlightening conversation with them.
NH7: How do you select your targets?
Anon1: Well, it’s a collective decision.
NH7: Between who?
Anon1: As you know, Anonymous is a group without leaders.
NH7: So how many of you guys are there?
Anon1: There are many and we don’t keep count. It’s a collective, like a group of bees.
NH7: Rough estimate?
Anon2: We are all over the world.
Anon1: No one knows for sure.
Anon2: Can you count?
NH7: Yes I can… learnt to count in school
Anon2: haha. I meant we were so huge in numbers.
Anon1: Some of the press say it’s from 50K to 200K. No one knows for sure
— Anonymous Operations (@Anon_Central) May 22, 2012
NH7: Why Big Cinemas?
Anon3: Check this http://www.datafilehost.com/download-f6f1a301.html. It’s an html file of websites blocked by Reliance without any reason or court order. This was retrieved from their servers itself.
NH7: Why do you think Reliance is doing this?
Anon3: We hit Big Cinemas because it seems to be the beneficiary of the website blocks. Relaince own Big Cinemas, BigFlix, etc. Reliance is a corrupt corporate.
Anon3: Did you go through the list of websites?
NH7: Yeah, I am going through it right now. That’s a lot of names.
Anon3: There is this particular entry
NH7: Yes. Which one?
Anon3: He’s involved in the 2G scam and so was Reliance. Or he has something to do with it. Reliance being involved via Swan Telecom blocked his sites and many more including Vimeo and Pastebin, Pastehtml.
NH7: What are you hoping to get out of this?
Anon3: We hope for a free internet. No blocking of websites.
NH7: Can you define what a “free internet” is to you?
Anon1: Where the flow of information cannot be controlled in any way.
Anon3: Also, we want the annulment of the IT 2008 Act which is recently implemented. It enables 36 hour removal of “offensive content”. This is basically done to stop the people from talking about the wrong deeds of political parties!
Check out this warning video to India by Anonymous.
NH7: Are you part of the international Anonymous? Do you get suggestions or directives from them?
Anon3: We are a part of them. We do get suggestions but not directives! You see, we have no leaders to give us orders but we have respected fellow anonymous members on this IRC who help us with the cause by providing resources such as IRC.
NH7: Who are the respected fellow anonymous members? Are they selected by you?
NH7: Are you one of the respected fellows?
Anon1: You earn respect.
Anon3: In a way, yes, for my respective channel.
Anon1: And there are many more *ahem* “more respected”.
Anon3: All the operators of a channel earned it.
NH7: What do you do with your respective channels?
Anon3: Moderate the channel, help decide targets, manage the social media. Some anons are operators in some channels and just memebers in others. We just did a deface with Big Cinemas and a university college in Meerut. People in the channel come up with the deface and give it to us. We just spead the word if we think it is appropriate. Also, #Opindia doesn’t mean people only from India. It is a goal defining channel in which all anons participate!
NH7: Will you do anything else besides DDoS attacks on websites?
Anon3: As of now we do not want to do any damage to the websites. We have the user database of Reliance with all their passwords but not leaking it. We just want the censorship to be removed.
NH7: Are you going to release any tools to help the common man fight censorship?
Anon3: They are already available. But we want them to come here and learn.
Anon3 then gives us a list of tutorials available for people to put together their own DDoS attacks.
DDOS Crash: http://anonypaste.com/750c08
HPING TUTORIAL: http://bit.ly/Ljqb9Z
Pyloris tutorial: http://pastebin.com/zyQwK7sg
Anon3: Pyloris method is the most easiest of all. It usually makes a website server restart when hit by ample number of people.
NH7: How do you get people involved?
Anon3: People usually find their way here. Once here, we call, (and) send them to these tutorials, else inviting people in the simplest form is the way you came in – just the website and the name of the channel.
This is Anonymous’s ‘Join The Revolution’ video.
NH7: Who is your next target?
Anon3: We are right now targeting Reliance and its sister concern websites till 9th June. One of our followers came up with a protest idea.
NH7: Are you worried that you’ll get caught?
Anon3: We are not in your jurisdiction and DDoS is not a crime.
This seemed like he (we’re assuming it’s a guy) was not based in India. I decided to probe to find out where he was…
NH7: Where are you based?
Anon3: Like I said before, we are anonymous.
Anon3: I might be your neighbour. I might be someone from USA, Russia, Japan.
NH7: Very true. You could be a girl, guy or transvestite…
Anon3: At least I am not a transvestite :P
Booya! We still don’t know who he/she is.
Anon3: We monitored the movement of Sir Anna Hazare. He had the masses with him but the government managed to suppress him. If we get the masses, we have an advantage. We have no leader to defame.
NH7: You have hacked government websites? Why not show the corruption at the state level?
Anon3: We are not fighting for corruption as of now.
“As of now”? Do they have something else up their sleeve?
Anon3: We are only fighting the internet censorship. We can easily hit irrtc or whatever the railway website is (it’s IRCTC).
NH7: Well, you mentioned Anna Hazare…
Anon3: A reference revolution.
NH7: Have you been contacted by the government or Relaince directly?
Anon3: No! They will not visit here because no logs are maintained. Government want documentation they can tamper with later and give as proof. So, do big corporates!
— opindia (@opindia_revenge) May 21, 2012
— Anonymous Operations (@Anon_Central) May 23, 2012
NH7: What are your plans after June 9?
Anon3: We have not decided as of yet. We will ask all the fellow anons and decide. But it is the people of india who should awaken and take to the streets.
June 9 is the date for ‘Occupy India #protest for internet freedom’ (FB event page here). Check what they had to say.
If the government doesn’t unblock all websites by Saturday, 9th June 2012 4PM we will retaliate. Every citizen of India is required to be wearing Anonymous’ (Fawkes) mask and assemble in the streets for a peaceful protest on 9th June.
Wear black head to toe, download and print Anonymous face mask and wear it. Target public places to get maximum attention: outside malls, in markets, in front of your MP’s House. Get banners, spread awareness in your city.
Now is the time to be a part of history.
Bring your friends & family. Share the date, share the information, inform the press and media. Strength is in numbers: no matter how old you are, where you live, whatever you do, come out of your homes wearing the Anonymous mask.
Change your Display Pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc to the Anonymous logo marking the date 9th June. Walk in public transport wearing Anonymous masks.
On 9th June 2012 the government will see its citizens rise.
This will be the start of a revolution.
We are Anonymous.
We are legion.
We are an idea.
An idea cannot be arrested.
An idea cannot be censored.
An idea cannot be stopped.
Anon3: It is the job of the responsible press to report facts!
NH7: That’s why I’m talking to you.
NH7: Do you have a long term plan?
Anon3: The government should have it to remove censorship. We will (continue to) fight till they censor.
Anon3: http://copyrightlabs.in/ got the court order to ban some of the websites.
Anon3: For the movie 3 dangerous *** and 1 more movie, their site was the first we attacked since they pulled it down.
On March 30, 2012, the Madras High Court issued the first ever gag order against the internet distribution of the film 3, restraining internet providers, including BSNL and other unknown persons, from impinging on copyright. The order restricts all from communicating, duplicating, downloading and uploading it in any manner without a proper license. The producers of the film along with Copyright Labs went to court to protect the copyright of the film 3.
In response, Internet service providers Reliance and Airtel, instead of banning specific links that infringed on copyright, blocked websites across the country including torrentz.eu, and The Pirate Bay as well as sites like Vimeo, Daily Motion and Pastebin.
Copyright Labs was then taken down by Anonymous. #likeaboss
The convo continues…
Anon3: We will never attack the media or their sites, as mentioned by some newpapers/articles, etc. Media is a tool be it twitter/ facebook/ times paper or any news channel.
NH7: Good to know (a collective sigh of relief as we wipe the sweat off our brows… Phew!)
As we were chatting, Anon3 revealed that they had a new target.
Anon3: Right now we are targetting aitmc.org for jailing a cartoonist, as suggest by people from your country. This is censorship.
Again, with the “people from your country”… another clue that Anon3 is not an Indian resident. Or is he playing me?
— opindia (@opindia_revenge) May 22, 2012
NH7: Which other countries are you working on at the moment besides India?
Anon3: Many. USA, UK, Italy and many. We have 1 twitter handle for our central operations reporting. I’ll give it to you. Check this is out till then… just a teaser for Reliance
Anon3 then sends me a download link to a whole pile of ticket details of people who have booked movie tickets on Big Cinemas’ website, which have confidential information like the last four digits of people’s credit card numbers and so on. According to Anon3, with these details and the ability to crack the credit card verification algorithm, it could be disastrous.
NH7: Isn’t it dangerous if this gets into the wrong hands? How can we trust you?
Anon3: We do not want you to trust us. Just expect us to save your rights. To transfer money it needs a bank account and verification password but still it is bad on the company’s (Reliance) side to store this data.
NH7: If you take away our right to privacy and use it to gain our right to information, aren’t you just trading one right for another?
Anon3: We are not taking your privacy, it was wrong on the company’s side to store this data on external servers. A corporate usually has an internal server for this data. A website is an info medium. We are just making you aware.
Anon3: Same happened with Sony. Playstation.
NH7: Yup, we heard about it.
Anon3: Though that was not Anonymous. People do tend to stick it on us and we cannot do anything about it because no one knows who we really are. Our only medium of contact is this IRC. The end. No emails. No cellphone. Nothing. Just the IRC.
At the end of April last year, the Playstation network was hacked and users personal and credit card details were compromised. More here.
NH7: When will your mission end?
Anon3: When all users report unblocking of websites like The Pirate Bay and the IT (2008) Act.
NH7: What more would you want to happen for you to stop?
Anon3: That is it.
On Wednesday I got a message on my blog from Anon3 who told me this
Hi I am from anonymous – person who you interviewed – I would like to inform you that our twitter ID got suspend and the reason we got is government investigation. This is internet censorship which we were protesting against! I hope you publish our article and mention about the suspended twitter acc too.
Yesterday, Anonymous organised a press conference on their IRC which was announced by Medianama’s editor and publisher Nikhil Pahwa via Twitter on Friday (May 25).
— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) May 25, 2012
Anonymous could be considered a vigilante organisation running amok with no leader and trying to bring down “the man”. Or maybe they’re crusaders setting information free to the masses. Censorship is seen as a suppression of a citizen’s right to information and freedom of speech. The job of the media is to make information available. However, editorial agendas and commercial allegiances filter information to the public. There are also times when information is kept confidential due to security reasons, ie. in regards to the country’s defense. Anonymous’ work and supposed “Robin Hood” deeds throw up these debates of how much should we be privy to? Personal privacy versus our entitlement to data concerning the doings of the government and corporates. How much should we know and how much do we want people (like the government and other private agencies) to know about us? Tell us what you think about this debate and about Anonymous’ work in the comments section below.
With inputs from Siddhant Mehta