NATO has poked the bear of the internet (which responded by announcing that it’s actually a hydra).
Anthropomorphic confusion aside, a NATO security report about “Anonymous”—the mysterious “hacktivist” group responsible for attacks on MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon and, most recently, Sony—has led the underground group to respond by cautioning NATO, “This is no longer your world. It is our world – the people’s world.”
(More on TIME.com: Spain Nabs Alleged ‘Anonymous’ PlayStation Network Hackers)
NATO’s report, issued last month, warned about the rising tide of politically-motivated cyberattacks, singling out Anonymous as the most sophisticated and high-profile of the known hacktivist groups:
“Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted,” the report read, also asking, “Can one invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty after a cyber attack? And what response mechanisms should the Alliance employ against the attacker? Should the retaliation be limited to cyber means only, or should conventional military strikes also be considered?”
In response, Anonymous issued a lengthy statement (Google-cached version; the site is having server issues currently) that says, in part:
“We do not wish to threaten anybody’s way of life. We do not wish to dictate anything to anybody. We do not wish to terrorize any nation.
We merely wish to remove power from vested interests and return it to the people – who, in a democracy, it should never have been taken from in the first place.
The government makes the law. This does not give them the right to break it. If the government was doing nothing underhand or illegal, there would be nothing ’embarassing’ [sic] about Wikileaks revelations, nor would there have been any scandal emanating from HBGary. The resulting scandals were not a result of Anonymous’ or Wikileaks’ revelations, they were the result of the CONTENT of those revelations. And responsibility for that content can be laid solely at the doorstep of policymakers who, like any corrupt entity, naively believed that they were above the law and that they would not be caught.
A lot of government and corporate comment has been dedicated to ‘how we can avoid a similar leak in the future’. Such advice ranges from better security, to lower levels of clearance, from harsher penalties for whistleblowers, to censorship of the press.
Our message is simple: Do not lie to the people and you won’t have to worry about your lies being exposed. Do not make corrupt deals and you won’t have to worry about your corruption being laid bare. Do not break the rules and you won’t have to worry about getting in trouble for it.”
It goes on to warn, “do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous. Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent.”
Quite when Anonymous started modeling itself after fictional terrorist organizations is unclear, but the message is just the opposite: NATO is on warning. How they’ll respond to this—if they’ll respond—remains to be seen, but I doubt that I’m the only person hoping that any response will be far more measured than bringing up conventional military strikes again.
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