They’re mysterious, they’re disruptive, and they’ve chosen sides in the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Hackers claiming to be part of the group Anonymous have claimed responsibility for several cyberattacks against Russian government websites and state media outlets in recent days.
On Monday, several major Russian media outlets were reportedly hacked, including the state-owned news agency TASS and the newspaper Kommunist.
They temporarily displayed a message opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Crimea.
Euronews Next was unable to independently verify how many websites had been affected by the purported attack.
War on Russia
On Thursday, hours after Russia invaded Ukraine, the hacker collective tweeted from an account linked to Anonymous, @YourAnonOne, that it was “officially in cyber war against the Russian government”.
Since then, the hacker group has claimed responsibility for several hacks, including DDOS attacks that brought down Russian government sites and RT, the country‘s state-owned news service.
Ukrainian songs on Russian TV?
On Saturday, the sites of the Kremlin, the lower house of the parliament, and the Russian defence ministry went down in an attack claimed on Twitter by Anonymous.
Anonymous also claimed on Monday to have hacked Russian state television channels, posting pro-Ukrainian content including patriotic songs and pictures from the invasion. Euronews cannot independently verify the claim.
It’s true that some cyberattacks are carried against Russia, but it’s difficult to know exactly how many.
Attribution is also very difficult, especially when dealing with Anonymous, which is famous for its white Guy Fawkes masks worn by its mysterious members.
“Anonymous” is not a group. It’s everyone and no one since any person can claim to be part Anonymous.
Simple but disruptive attacks
Still, the Anons, who emerged at the beginning of this decade, have historically been vocal in defense of free speech and privacy. Their actions online, however, while fairly simple, could potentially be very disruptive. To defend an institution, a country, you need a lot more resources. However, if you want to attack a system, you only need one or a few skilled people. “Just a few people could have a big effect.” A growing number of hackers are believed to be teaming together to fight Russia in cyber space. Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorenko said on Saturday that his country is establishing an “IT Army” to counter Russian cyberattacks. “There will be tasks for every one,” he tweeted, linking to a channel on the popular Telegram messaging app featuring a long list of prominent Russian websites.
What other countries or individuals have been targeted by Anonymous?
The US State Department has condemned what it called “cyber vandalism” targeting the website of the Russian Foreign Ministry, saying it poses a threat to global security.
A statement issued late on Wednesday said the hacking of the site “is unacceptable and threatens international peace and security”.
Russia annexed Crimea last month following months of protests over Moscow’s support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
US officials say they believe the hack was done by a group calling itself Anonymous, which says it wants to protest Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Russian authorities have repeatedly denied claims that their computers have been hit by hackers.
Who is behind the alleged attack?
The group, which calls itself Anonymous, has previously attacked the websites of the French National Front party and the Church of Scientology.
In 2011, the group posted personal details about thousands of users of the file sharing network Pirate Bay.
Last year, it launched denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the websites of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England after they criticised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
But the group has also taken credit for high profile hacks such as the defacement of the British Serious Organised Crime Agency’s website in February.
And in 2010, it took credit for shutting down the websites of MasterCard and Visa after they stopped processing donations to Wikileaks.