Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sony and Anonymous

When discussing online intrusions, hacks, and denial of service incidents, one of the primary questions posed is: "who did this?" Obviously, the company under attack has a direct obligation to its customers to both repair the damage and implement preventative measures. However, an organization today known as "Anonymous" is increasingly challenging the ability to pinpoint a direct source of an attack. Anonymous is neither a collective group nor a dedicated few individuals; it is everywhere, at any time, consisting of whomever so desires to be a part of it. Do I think that Anonymous attacked Sony? No. However, this makes it difficult for Sony because if Anonymous is not a group or a defined set of people, how can it be said that the hacking attempt wasn't Anonymous?

In my opinion, Sony needs to determine who made the attack, and for this reason they have listed Anonymous as the perpetrator. Regardless of its innocence, Anonymous will take the blame because it is not defined, and there is no way to prove it wasn't the group. How can we prove that it wasn't Anonymous if the entire point of the organization is to claim that it is everywhere? If one person "joins" Anonymous, then later, with several other people who have also "joined," commit a service disruption, is that the action of Anonymous or not? How many people does it take to form "Annonymous?" Since there are no statistics on the size of the group, one hundred people could make up 70% of the organization on Monday but only 10% on Tuesday.

As odd as it may sound, I think that most people in the tech community believe Anonymous when they say they aren't seeking credit card numbers. The group as a whole seems to pursue what they feel are moral crusades and stealing customer data doesn't seem to align with the past. However, it is hard to pinpoint a motive for the group, and there certainly be members who elect to pursue more damaging attacks than the rest of the organization. Regardless, Sony will most likely continue to blame the group as a whole. Since Anonymous wants to be anonymous, it can use the shield of anonymity to protect it, but it may also come back to harm them later as well.

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