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Since declaring “cyber war” on President Vladimir Putin in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine, the Anonymous hacktivist collective has been bombarding Russia with cyber-attacks. Several members of the group spoke about their motivations, tactics, and plans.

An Anonymous hack on Russian television networks stands out among all the cyber-attacks carried out since the Ukraine conflict began.
The hack was captured in a short video clip that shows normal programming being interrupted by images of bombs exploding in Ukraine and soldiers discussing the horrors of the conflict.

On February 26th, the video went viral after being shared by Anonymous social media accounts with millions of followers. One post read, “JUST IN: #Russian state TV channels have been hacked by #Anonymous to broadcast the truth about what happens in #Ukraine.” It amassed millions of views in a short period of time.
This stunt has all of the characteristics of an Anonymous hack: it’s dramatic, impactful, and easy to share online.

It was also difficult to verify, as were many of the group’s other cyber-attacks. However, one of the smaller groups of Anonymous hackers claimed responsibility and claimed to have taken over television services for 12 minutes.

The hackers justified their actions by claiming that civilians in Ukraine were being slaughtered.
“If nothing is done to restore peace in Ukraine,” they added, “we will intensify our attacks on the Kremlin.”

Although Anonymous claims to have taken down Russian websites and stolen government data, Lisa Forte, a partner at cyber-security firm Red Goat, says the majority of these attacks have been “quite basic” so far. DDoS attacks, in which a server is overwhelmed by a flood of requests, have been the most common method used by hackers, she said. These are simple to carry out and only take websites offline for a short period of time. “However, the TV hack is incredibly creative, and I would think quite difficult to pull off,” she said.

Russian websites have also been defaced by anonymous hackers. According to Forte, this entails gaining control of a website in order to alter the content displayed. So far, the attacks have caused disruption and embarrassment, but since the invasion, cyber-experts have become increasingly concerned about the rise in hacktivism. They are concerned that a hacker may inadvertently disable a hospital’s computer network or disrupt vital communication links. Emily Taylor of the Cyber Policy Journal says, “I’ve never seen anything like this. These attacks do pose a threat. They could lead to an escalation, or someone could inadvertently harm a vital aspect of civilian life.”

Who is Anonymous?

  • Anonymous is a decentralized international activist and hacktivist collective and movement best known for its cyberattacks on governments, government institutions and agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology.
  • The hacktivist collective first appeared on the website 4chan in 2003.
  • “We are legion” is the tagline of the group, which has no leadership.
  • The group has numerous social media accounts, with 15.5 million Twitter followers alone.
  • Anyone can claim to be a member of the group and hack for whatever reason they want, but they usually target organizations accused of abusing their power.
  • A Guy Fawkes mask is their symbol, which was made famous by Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta, in which an anarchist revolutionary overthrows a corrupt fascist government.

 

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