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SOURCE Boston: Anonymous In The Year 2020

In a packed, table filled room for about 300 people, Josh Corman and Jericho opened the SOURCE Boston conference on Tuesday with a keynote address on Anonymous. The stated goal of their talk was to examine what Anonymous could look like in 2020.

The talk itself largely rested on items from Corman and Jericho’s blog series, Building a Better Anonymous. The keynote, blog series, and the general idea behind Tuesday’s keynote was to promote further discussions about Anonymous and what could be in store for them in the future – say eight years from now.

Yet, in order to do that, one must understand that the Anonymous as the majority of the public knows it today is only about four years old. They’re a reactive group for the most part, and while they haven’t been around for ages, the ideology that they support has. Another thing to understanding the Anonymous of 2020, especially when it comes to the IT world, is that they are not a technical issue. Anonymous, for all of their attacks and propaganda, is purely a sociological issue.

The various ideologies and personal backgrounds of the supporters of Anonymous make the loosely associative order hard to define. One noted pundit, Patrick Grey, compared Anonymous to the pirates of the 17th century. While Jericho took a more mainstream comparison, noting that when the different factions within Anonymous are considered - they act like modern day Christians. Christians tend to want to better their fellow man. In contrast, some Anons want to help people all over the world protect their freedoms and their personal human rights.

Within Christianity, there are extreme variations between the definitions of right and wrong, which is why the Westboro Baptist Church exists unfortunately. In contrast, within Anonymous there are extreme variations between what is acceptable, which leads to the internal bickering among Anons. An example of this would be the debates that seem to arrive whenever massive amounts of information on innocents are published to the public during the aftermath of an Anonymous operation, such as OpBART.

Other items of note from Tuesday’s keynote include that observation that a majority of the active Anonymous supporters don’t do much. Maybe 5-10% of them are skilled hackers or activists, Jericho noted, “Otherwise they’re glorified cheerleaders.”

“In the security industry if we can’t deal with anonymous we’re fucked,” Jericho said.

The reasoning, he said, is simply that nothing Anonymous has done is new to the industry. DDoS attacks, social engineering, and web-application exploitation have existed for years, so why are Anonymous’ actions being promoted as something new or unique? Why are organizations struggling to deal with them?

Law enforcement efforts were also addressed, including the fact that there have been at least 184 arrests and 106 raids in 14 countries. Yet, even as those metrics were being addressed, Anonymous had just finished a weekend of DDoS attacks. So while the law enforcement agencies are actively looking for Anonymous and are successful in some cases, they cannot stop them all.

Overall, while the keynote didn’t introduce anything new to the concept of Anonymous, it did start the discussion if the hallway conversations were anything to go by. For now, those who are curious can checkout the Building a Better Anonymous series here.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.