Anonymous Strikes Again – Sort Of

At the beginning of the month, Anonymous – the hacktivist group behind the “LulzXmas” scheme that we reported on earlier this year – announced that they’d be carrying out a hacking spree on November 5th, in honor of Guy Fawkes, the historical figure that helped inspire a comic book series and the film “V for Vendetta,” and the symbol of Anonymous. That day has come and gone, and the results are in: something happened. We’re just not sure exactly what.

For Anonymous, Guy Fawkes Day is something of a major holiday. It’s the anniversary of the failure of the Gunpowder Plot, a conspiracy created by a group of angry Catholics to assassinate the Protestant King James I of England and VI of Scotland by blowing up Parliament. Instead of bombs and bullets, Anonymous decided to celebrate by causing a little Internet chaos.

On Saturday November 4, a source associated with the group leaked to the press that Anonymous had begun attacks on PayPal, Symantec and several other organizations. According to a statement, Operation Vendetta was “a warning to all governments worldwide that if they keep trying to censor, cut, imprison, or silence the free world or the free internet they will not be our governments for much longer.” To that end, a large protest, which was mostly peaceful, also took place at Parliament on Nov. 6.

Anonymous allegedly began their attacks on the night of November 5. The group first tweeted on Sunday night that they had hacked a PayPal server and retrieved 28,000 customer passwords. Luckily for consumers, PayPal hasn’t come across any evidence that the group actually broke through their security. Take a deep breath, PayPal users. You’re safe this time.

As for Symantec, Anonymous hasn’t confirmed that they’re behind a hack on the company that makes anti-virus software. Symantec has issued a statement to their customers, saying that they take every claim of an attack on their servers seriously and will continue to protect their customers’ information. So far, no evidence of a hack has been found.

In terms of successful attacks, a hacker using the name “pyknic” managed to hack the NBC website, including the pages for “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” Instead of getting a fix of their favorite shows, visitors to NBC’s site were greeted by flashing lights, loud music, and messages that alluded to Guy Fawkes Day – messages like “Remember The Fifth of November, The Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.”

Anonymous has denied involvement in these hacks, which leaves the public wondering who might have been behind this hacking spree. Since Anonymous is a loosely defined collective of Internet vigilantes, almost any hacker can claim to be a part of Anonymous. Still, the organization does have a press arm, one which makes distinctions about official organization activity.

In terms of general Internet mayhem, it appears that Operation Vendetta didn’t have the same impact as “LulzXmas” and Operation Robin Hood, which were attempts to give charities fat Christmas donations by using stolen credit card numbers. But that sort of chaos may not have been the point this time around. Since the group has not confirmed their involvement in any of these Guy Fawkes Day hacks (except for their supposed infiltration of PayPal’s security system), Journalists appear to have jumped the gun in linking Anonymous to the November 5 attacks.

While the story develops, let this latest hacking spree – whether or not Anonymous was involved – remind you that there’s always a risk when your information is out on the World Wide Web.