McAfee Labs

Will LulzSec ‘Takedowns’ Put an End to Hacktivism?

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By on Mar 07, 2012

The news is circulating of the recent arrests of many of LulzSec’s members. From the Fox News site:

“Law enforcement agents on two continents swooped in on top members of the infamous computer hacking group LulzSec early this morning, and acting largely on evidence gathered by the organization’s brazen leader–who sources say has been secretly working for the government for months–arrested three and charged two more with conspiracy.”

This is quite an interesting development. Most likely we will be left with far more questions than answers as more information is revealed. It seems authorities are acting largely on information gathered by the LulzSec’s “leader,” whose handle is Sabu, and who is said to have been secretly working for the government for months.

Leader? Hmm. We will come back to that. …

The Hacker News also has a very good write-up on the events and also has a full dox on Sabu. What do these arrests mean? Is this an end to LulzSec? Is this an end to Anonymous? Is this an end to hacktivism?

If you read the FBI quotes in the article it would certainly seem so: “This is devastating to the organization,” said an FBI official involved with the investigation. “We’re chopping off the head of LulzSec.” I tend to disagree, but don’t get me wrong. Taking down criminals and criminal organizations is almost always a good thing, but when dealing with hacktivism it is not that simple.

Hacktivism, remember, is the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends. I disagree with many of the operations that both LulzSec and Anonymous have engaged in because I question how doxing, denial of service, and data theft can lead to positive political change. But that is not really the point.

The big question of what this means to LulzSec and Anonymous specifically and to hacktivism overall remains. If one understands the true nature of Anonymous, LulzSec and, to a greater extent, hacktivism, then it’s clear this will not have the desired outcome. Anonymous and LulzSec have no leaders. There is no command structure in any real sense of the word. Anyone can be Anonymous. That is kinda the point. Though it’s hard to say definitely at this point, it will most likely be akin to taking down any one botnet or cybercriminal: Others will rise to take their place. In the case of hacktivism, it will probably inspire more activity and retaliatory attacks.

Several hours after the LulzSec arrests, Anonymous had this to say on some websites they defaced: “Anonymous existed before LulzSec and will continue existing.”

Stay vigilant and expect them.

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