WikiLeaks attackers ‘a united group of passionate actors’

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - Cyber crime experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) have suggested that the mob mentality behind the current wave of cyber attacks against sites of various banking, credit and other service-industries are not the result of frenzy or mass hysteria - rather they are a united group of passionate actors.

“Leaders of Anonymous, the group behind the cyber attacks, have instructed volunteer participants whose machines are being used to overwhelm targeted websites to deny their role by telling authorities that their computer must have fallen victim to a virus,” said Gary Warner, director of research in computer forensics at UAB.

“This is not a group acting irrationally,” he added.

Warner, who has been tracking the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on sites that include PayPal and others in the past days, has cited the mentality and motivations of the Anonymous attackers in his blog, ‘CyberCrime and Doing Time’.

With the help from criminologist John Sloan, chairman of the Department of Justice Sciences at UAB, he said the behaviour of the WikiLeaks cyber attackers is a collective behaviour, characteristic of groups that unite behind passions for a similar interest and act to ‘make a difference’.

“This is a thoughtful group of like-minded members who are brought together by technologies unavailable to previous generations and are united to take out websites run by companies that the group feels support Internet censorship,” said Sloan in this case.

“The DDoS attackers are very aware of what they are doing. This is not mass hysteria with participants in some kind of frenzy to act out,” he added.

Warner said he has observed similar behaviour in his research when nationalists rise up to defend their country, such as during political protests in Iran in 2009 and during the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.

“The question remains what the exit strategy will be for this crowd - will they grow bored and quit, will they grow more reckless and dangerous, or will they guide their members to more legal and socially acceptable behaviour?” he said.

Warner said one of the things that make Anonymous attackers unique is that they are not tied to a particular country or attack in defence of a country. (ANI)

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