May 14, 2013
Back Bay Books
We Are Anonymous - Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency
We Are Anonymous is a compelling and entertaining read. While light on technical details and rife with dubious sources (Olson bases a lot of the embellishments in her narrative on interviews with “members” of Anonymous who arguably have been known to spin a tale or two), We Are Anonymous excels most when offering insight into the people and motives that drive the underbelly of the internet. My primary interest in reading this book was to get a concise overview of how the Anonymous movement evolved and what specific attacks have been attributed to them. I did a quick write up of Olson’s timeline here.
Olson humanizes her story by following several characters (i.e. people she interviewed) through their interactions with Anonymous. Some are bored adolescents who got caught up in the sense of community and joined in on raids briefly before returning to their normal lives. Others are avid users of the 4chan forum, desensitized to violence and sex, and spending their days prowling the internet for victims to cyberbully. There are experts on social engineering who can get people on social media to reveal personal information that can be further exploited for maximum “lulz”. Others joined Anonymous for hacktivism, wanting to play the part of vigilante and be the judge, jury and executioner of those the system failed to punish. Still others have the technical skills to cause serious damage and are looking for an excuse to use them.
Regardless of who got pulled into Anonymous and how, though, it is clear that the power of anonymity and the disassociation from real life and consequences that comes with use of the internet can mobilize people in amazing and terrifying ways. This book portrays Anonymous as having haphazardly evolved out of internet subculture and suffering constantly from an identity crisis. It tears itself apart and reforms under new leadership and causes frequently. It can be argued that the real teeth behind Anonymous isn’t the horde, but the handful of hackers that are attracted to Anonymous’s latest cause.
Overall, We Are Anonymous’s writing and source material is a bit of a mess, but the book still does a decent job of pulling the reader into the world of Anonymous and there are plenty of lessons to be learned from it. If anything, anyone who is convinced they don’t need to worry about their own personal online security or that of their company’s should read this book. It does a brilliant job of demonstrating how arbitrary cyberattacks can be. Anonymous certainly has left a long trail of damage in its wake.
Throughout my 10 year career I have worked as a web developer, systems administrator, software engineer, security analyst and now cybersecurity engineer. I currently develop software applications to automate security vulnerability and compliance scanning and reporting for a multinational financial institution.