For my discussion post, I will be comparing the Syrian Electronic Army and Anonymous. At first glance, the two hacker groups share many similarities, yet their general-purpose could not be more distinct. I have always been one not to desire to fit in with established society, sympathizing with most who stand up for something they believe in (within reason, of course). Ever since I saw the film V for Vendetta and began learning about Anonymous, I could not help but be fascinated with the concept of an internet-collective that aspires to change the world (for better or worse). I find that Anonymous’ power, and many hacker groups like it, can be vastly superior to even a country’s military force if used correctly. While I admire the idea of using power to try to steer the world in the right direction by defending censorship, protecting the rights of all, and reducing the strength of malicious hacker groups/militaries/political parties, I find that often, power in anyone’s hands can be challenging to control (especially for self-described non-leadership-based hacker collectives).
The Syrian Electronic Army differs from Anonymous in that much of the group is based in one region (or at least has the shared beliefs of that area). While Anonymous began as merely “for the lulz,” it has eventually expanded to performing several successful operations in societies, political parties, organizations, and religions; many of these hacks would be deemed as favorable to the general population, going after organization’s that were doing something deemed “wrong” by popular culture. While I am certainly not condoning any of Anonymous’ actions, I remember laughing quite hard when I heard about their attack against the Westboro Baptist Church (who are well known for their anti-gay and anti-military views). The Syrian Electronic Army’s goal is focused on specific targets and reasoning, seemingly fitting a structuralized thought process. Anonymous, on the other hand, merely waits for injustices to occur and acts accordingly. While my views on the two hacker groups are obviously derived and bolstered from the country I live in, I must admit that everyone views themselves as the ‘good guy.’ I am not an expert by any means on the Syrian Electronic Army, and while much of their actions seem rather evil to me, I am sure others in that region view them as heroes.
Currently, we see the rise of organized internet crime organizations like Anonymous growing in popularity and power. Groups of hackers and activists are becoming more organized due to sophisticated communication tools that allow them to talk to each other without the fear of being caught, the easy access to advanced (and relatively inexpensive) technology in modern times, and the continuous fluctuations in the world as COVID-19 changes how businesses and individuals access, store, and transmit their data. Organizations, such as those responsible for the SolarWinds breach (most likely Russian), will continue to grow as our world continues our digital transformation.
Fun fact: Anonymous and the Syrian Electronic Army have traded blows in the past, leading to doxed individuals and tampered websites.
Coleman, Gabriela. 2014. Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. New York, London: Verso.
Rid, Thomas. 2013. Cyber War Will Not Take Place. Oxford University Press, Inc., USA.
Fandom. (n.d.). Cyberpunk 2077. Retrieved January 13, 2021, from https://cyberpunk.fandom.com/wiki/Cyberpunk_2077.