Storyville (1997) s13e18 Episode Script

How Hackers Changed the World: We are Legion

The computer hacker group
Anonymous is claiming tonight
that it took down the website
of the Federal Appeals Court
in San Francisco this afternoon.
They took down senate. gov servers.
They've taken down HBGary.
Sony's claiming they did
150 million worth of damage.
So many confidential files
that, tonight,
because of these hackers, can be
in the hands of anyone.
Visa, MasterCard,
the PayPal situation.
The criminals who hacked
into Sarah Palin's private email.
The Church of Scientology says
Anonymous is a cyber
terrorist group of religious bigots.
Anonymous and this
other group called LulzSec,
they seem to be wanting to
prove a point.
Anonymous kind of was like the big
strong buff kid who had low
self esteem and then,
all of a sudden, punched
somebody in the face and was, like,
"Holy shit, I'm really strong!"
Anonymous calls itself the final
boss of the internet
and sometimes it proves to be
really fucking true.
If you are going to violate
the freedoms of the internet,
you certainly better watch
the fuck out.
They are kind of the rude
boys of activism.
There's a real rough edge to them
which I think also is one
reason why they garner so much love
and hate from people too.
They represent a certain
sort of chaotic freedom.
Individual young, nameless,
faceless folks
are having geo-political impact.
It's both exhilarating
to realise that
and terrifying to realise that.
It kind of depends on how
that power is wielded.
We are legion.
We do not forget.
Expect us.
We stand for freedom.
We stand for freedom of speech,
the power of the people,
the ability for them
to protest against their government,
to right wrongs.
No censorship, especially online,
but also in real life.
We have members throughout society
and all stratas of it worldwide.
We have no leadership.
It's one voice.
It's not individual voices.
That's why we don't show our faces.
That's why we don't give our names.
We're speaking as one.
It's a collective. Good timing.
I got called a terrorist
We've been called kids,
we've been called cyber bullies,
we've been called hooligans.
Sometimes those words aren't
entirely unfair,
but this is a serious
political movement.
No-one in the general public
really seems to get it.
What they don't seem to get
is that the ability for Anonymous to
be everything
and anything is its power.
Anonymous is a series
of relationships.
Hundreds and hundreds of people
who are very active in it
and who have varying skill sets
and who have varying issues
they want to advance
and who are collaborating
in different ways each day.
They're a little bit like a prism
or kaleidoscope.
They've got many different facets
and many different sides.
Of course
when you spend enough time with them,
you start to get a sort of feel or
texture that's not just random,
right, yet it's very multifaceted,
very rich, which does
span from the quite light-hearted
to the very, very serious.
Bob Dylan had a line in a song
saying to live outside
the law you must be honest.
They might do something which isn't
technically correct,
maybe it's not legally correct,
but they're doing it for purposes,
that, in their minds at least,
are ethical.
People who know what they're doing,
who share an ethos,
who have a commitment to exposing
and humiliating the man who have a
very low tolerance of lies and what
they perceive as evil on the part
of overweening power structures.
They share information,
they share tools and techniques
and they are currently having
a very good time.
The hacker culture as we know it
really sprang from one place, MIT,
and it was specifically the people
in the tech model railway club.
Hacking originated
its humorous pranks
when the guys at MIT put a
Volkswagen up on top of the dome of
the building and people woke up and
saw the car up there in the morning.
Or they measured a bridge
by the body lengths of somebody,
let's say his name was Brian,
and discovered the bridge over
the Charles River was 822 Brians.
These are funny things.
That's where hacking originated
and migrated into engineering
and computer communities.
It's witty. It's pranks.
I'm Chris Wysopal,
former member of the Lopht.
We don't necessarily say "hacking
group" cos it makes it sound
like we're hacking, but we used to
call it a hacker's think-tank.
Hacktivism was a term coined by a
group called Cult Of The Dead Cow.
The Cult Of The Dead Cow was
really kind of, um,
sort of like a propaganda
type of organisation.
They had a guy who was
the Minister of Propaganda.
They're kind of merry pranksters.
Everything they did was
completely over the top.
One of the guys there coined
the term "hacktivism"
because one of the things his group
were doing which
he called hacktivism was writing
software that people in other
countries could use to communicate
securely, even if
their government was spying on them.
So the principle was really
freedom of expression.
It was everyone should have
access to the internet.
Everyone should be able to
and get their message
out on the internet.
Even more important in countries
where there was oppressive regimes,
that if you said
something against the regime,
they would come and take you away
and you weren't saying it anymore.
Just like in traditional activism,
it spans the full gamut from sit-ins
or pickets to actually spiking
trees and pouring sand into the
engines of construction vehicles.
I mean, there's real sabotage.
The same thing does fall under
the hacktivism label.
There is a spectrum.
There's sometimes a strong anarchist
flavour to it as well.
Its resistance to authority
and those who would impose
group thinking
and group behaviour on people,
which was rightly perceived to be
a consequence of
the digital revolution,
as it was used by people in power
to do hacking on behalf
of righteousness and to address
the grievances of the world.
Lance lowered Don Quixote
on his horse,
nag though she was,
flying at the windmills
of modern life.
Anonymous grew out of what's
known as 4chan.
Essentially, this is just a website
where people can upload images.
You don't actually give your name.
It's just sort of anonymous.
When you look at 4chan,
you're often surprised
because it looks like a site
from 1995 or something.
The idea is very simple. You post
a comment and you post a picture.
You can post under your name
or anonymously
and it's separated into boards
about particular topics.
There's a topic on anime,
there's a topic on weaponry.
There's like a 4chan board
for origami
and you just upload interesting
pictures of origami.
And then there was a group called
the /b/ board which
essentially was for anything goes.
The first time anybody goes on /b/
it's kind of an instant
revulsion cos there's never a time
that you go on there
where you don't see something
That easily puts off a lot
of people.
The idea is post something that
can never be unseen.
Half of the posts on /b/ are there
specifically to make people
not want to come back to /b/.
It's the most vile, disgusting
and funny thing on the internet.
One of the important things
about 4chan is to have a thread
that really explodes
and lasts for a long time.
If it doesn't, then it disappears.
It's a site that's not archived,
so it creates
conditions for anything that grabs
attention at some level.
And so humour and grotesqueness, as
a result, are quite good for that.
You'll see something posted one day
and then, a week later,
it's got 50,000 derivatives of it.
A lot of the great internet
memes that we all know and love,
you know, LOLcats.
Little cats doing funny things
and then you have,
"I Can Has Cheezburger?"
All that stuff seems to start in
this Petri dish
that is 4chan /b/ board.
Say it publicly
and you're insane
Chocolate rain. ♪
Name any meme from the last six
years and I'll bet you,
either its first posting ever
was on 4chan or at least
one of its earliest revisions that
became what it was, was on 4chan.
'I can see the food situation is
BLEEP so we'll be on our way.'
Never gonna give you up,
never gonna let you down. ♪
It's basically the best breeding
ground for internet culture
as far as I'm concerned.
With your neighbourhood insurance
rates, chocolate rain. ♪
4chan is also very known for
acts of trolling.
For them, it's funny
that people think the internet
is serious business
and if people think the internet
is serious business,
it's a troll's job
to make their luck tear.
The idea of Anonymous came
initially as a joke.
Somebody suggested that what
if the whole site, what if 4chan,
what if /b/ was just one person?
And what if that's just one guy
called Anonymous sitting
somewhere and you're just reading
all these quotes by one guy?
And it kind of looked like that
from the outsider's perspective.
There's no way to tell
the difference.
It might as well be one guy.
Fox News did a very famous
segment about it.
They call themselves Anonymous.
They are hackers on steroids,
treating the web like a real life
video game, sacking websites
and baiting mySpace accounts,
disrupting innocent people's lives.
And if you fight back, watch out.
Destroy, Die, Attack.
That's from a gang of
computer hackers
calling themselves Anonymous.
I've had seven different passwords
and they've got them all so far.
Anonymous hacked his site and
plastered it with gay sex pictures.
His girlfriend left him. She thought
that I was cheating on her with guys.
As long as I can think back,
Anonymous have done some
pretty off-colour things in the name
of getting cheap laughs.
But that's part of the culture.
They get what
they call LULZ.
LULZ is a corruption of LOL which
stands for Laugh Out Loud.
Anonymous gets big
LULZ from pulling random pranks.
For example, messing with online
children's games like Habbo Hotel.
Habbo Hotel was this online community
where you had an avatar
and walked around
and talked to other people.
It was kind of like an early
version of World Of Warcraft or
Second Life or any of those
virtual worlds.
What the people on /b/ did was
invade Habbo Hotel,
created thousands of avatars.
They all had this one uniform of this
black guy with a big afro
wearing a black suit, and
so there would be thousands of these
people, black guys, black suit,
huge afro, walking around this world.
They would do things like form
a swastika out of themselves.
I think that was a real landmark
because it was
when they were able to see that they
can use their numbers to do
something really interesting
and really disruptive.
Most kids love that pool.
They love the shit out of their pool.
The goal was actually to
offend everyone
simply because the idea that we
could offend you by drawing
a little shape on the screen was
stupid to the people involved in it.
They were like, "Really?
"You're going to get that mad over
us just drawing this on the screen?
"You need to refocus a little on
life cos this should not be
"upsetting you that much."
All these different organisations
online, whether it's 4chan or
just any website, there's typically
a community aspect to it.
This is where people
have their social relationships.
This is where their friends are.
This is where
they have a creative outlet,
so all those aspects are going
into groups like Anonymous where
people feel like they're
part of a bigger thing
and they're able to express
themselves within that group.
There were certain words,
certain phrases,
certain ways people respond
to things,
certain images that were posted,
that created a pattern
and that pattern was
the origin of what is now Anonymous.
It's like Freemasons
with a sense of humour in
so much as they have this
common symbology
and one of their chief joys,
wrapped up in power and secrecy,
was the fact that they could
recognise each other
by referencing these symbols,
referencing these phrases.
Over 9,000. 'It's over 9,000.'
I lost my iPod.
Mudkipz. Anything involving Mudkipz.
So you have this weird
sort of international culture
developing with people across
the world wherever they may be.
In late '06 and into early
'07 there's a bit of a seachange
where, instead of just posting
a bunch of content or randomly
saying we're going to go over to
some website and post a bunch of
dirty comments against someone, it
becomes a little more organised.
'Welcome to the Hal Turner Show.'
They went after a guy named
Hal Turner.
'I am being discriminated
against because I'm white.'
Hal Turner was a neo-Nazi who was
big on lying and had a podcast.
'I think that the 14th Amendment
was not ratified properly
'and I think therefore it is still OK
'to have negroes as slaves
in America.'
'Where are you calling from?'
'Hola. This is Pedro.' 'Spick.'
He was just a horribly racist
radio personality who seemed to
handle it well when you called in.
He could handle being
berated by Anonymous
and that made it very interesting.
It made it a bit of a challenge.
It wasn't some guy who just either
crumbled or stopped answering
the phone.
It was a guy who would yell back.
Hal Turner wasn't the first
actual person that Anonymous caused
trouble for, but the circumstances
ended up being significant.
They DDoS'd his website
so it cost him
thousands of dollars
in bandwidth fees.
Denial of Service has
been around for a long, long time.
The equivalent if you,
for some reason,
wanted to disrupt a bus service,
you can hire 1,000 extras to all go
and line up at the bus station
and get on the bus so anyone who is
really trying to get on the bus,
couldn't do it.
It's as simple as that.
When you stop trying to visit,
the website goes back up.
No permanent damage.
And then they ended up getting some
real hackers to help them out.
This wasn't pranks.
They actually were able to get
into Hal Turner's private servers,
in his mail servers, and find some
interesting emails
that he was serving as
an FBI informant which,
if you're a right wing neo-Nazi,
is not a good thing to be.
And obviously, him being an FBI
informant and also his douche-bag
reaction to the raids
damaged his credibility in the white
nationalist scene, which is a shame.
Hal Turner's gone.
He's been prosecuted by the Feds
for threatening judges.
What follows is
a period of confusion
and anger in which people,
the sort who want to keep Anonymous
as this nihilist ridiculous
group, are upset that now the most
terrible thing on the internet
is now becoming a force
for good all of a sudden.
I'm Mike Vitale and my handle's
Sethdood. Now, this is January 2008.
Anonymous is strong now. We're not
a little dinky fucking group anymore.
This is like millions of people
worldwide and we're watching
and then Scientology stepped in with
a big target on its chest.
A video came out of Tom Cruise that
was supposed to be an internal
Scientology video talking
about secrets of Scientology.
Being a Scientologist,
when you drive past an accident,
it's not like anyone else.
As you drive past, you know you have
to do something about it
because you know you're the only one
that can really help.
He talks about you're the only
one who can stop bad things
from happening and so
this is widely mocked online.
It circulated like wildfire.
Instantly, the Scientologists
post a DMCA,
Digital Millennium
Copyright Act,
and this is a way that,
if you own content,
you can go to video sites,
upload sites,
and have your content pulled
when someone uploads it illegally.
Scientology is always at odds
with the internet.
Always trying to legally bully
people out of fucking them over
on the internet.
They always did that.
And here they are trying again,
but, do you know what,
Anonymous saw that and said,
"Oh, you guys just
"fucked around badly, like you're
trying to censor our internet."
You're trying to take a joke away
from Anonymous. You don't do that.
A few Anons,
a few people on 4chan posted,
"Hey, we should grab that video
and post it on a few other sites."
What followed was a term called
the Barbra Streisand Effect.
And this video, as they're attempting
to suppress it, went everywhere.
Everywhere you look on the internet,
you were going to stumble
upon this video.
Actually, Gawker,
the site I worked for,
was the first one to put it on the
website and we got into a huge
legal battle with Scientology
who wanted us to take it down.
Scientology is an interesting target
because, in some ways,
it's the perfect inversion of what
geeks and hackers value.
At so many different levels. Science
fiction. Intellectual property.
Discourses of freedom.
Science and technology.
It's very proprietary.
It's closed.
And so, in some ways, if you had
something like a culture inversion
machine and you stuck geeks
and hackers in there,
you'd get something that looks
a lot like Scientology, so it's quite
offensive and there's a real pleasure
in attacking your perfect nemesis.
People who knew what Anonymous was
to begin with were like,
"Oh, my God, Anonymous is going to
go to war with Scientology?
"This should be really interesting."
Especially cos it's
two weird-ass groups.
I've been in Anon
for a long fucking time.
I know Anonymous is really strange.
They're weird
and the stuff we like is weird
and it's really not mainstream
at all. Now you have Scientology.
Also really weird.
A lot of crazy shit goes down.
Anybody on the outside
who sees this is going,
"Let's watch these
two retards fight.
"Both their pants are going
to fall down
"and it's going to hurt everybody
and it's going to be hysterical."
And then, that's when 4chan kind
of really reared into action
and they started to troll
the Church of Scientology.
This took the form of pranking
the Dianetics Hotline,
ordering pizzas.
I go to call them on the phone
and it's busy, busy, busy.
That's their main fucking Dianetics
Hotline. Their Dianetics 800 number.
You can't get through because Anons
have completely fucking
clogged it
and probably saying stupid shit.
The whole idea was just to keep them
on the phone.
"What's an L Ron?
How do I Dianetics my face?"
They were not expecting that.
They couldn't handle it.
I'm Brian Mettenbrink.
I'd just gone to 4chan,
pure happenstance,
and I saw a post about the
Scientology thing and I started
looking up stuff and I'm like, "Oh,
this is actually for a decent cause.
"I think I'll do this."
Anonymous members have developed a
distributed Denial of Service attack
to a Low Orbit Ion Cannon, which is
the name taken from a computer game.
Low Orbit Ion Cannon is what's
called an endgame weapon
in Red Alert.
All you had to do was literally
follow instructions step by step.
You put it on the site.
You see that the IP is correct.
You make sure that all these
settings are good then you
hit the button and off it goes.
And what it does, it tells in this case,
it tells them to send their website
to my computer about,
I think it was 800,000
times in a weekend
and I'm pretty sure I probably took
it down myself a couple of times.
It felt like you were making
a difference. You, yourself.
You didn't even have to
leave your home, you know.
One of the guys said,
"We need to make a video.
We have to make a video."
'Hello, leaders of Scientology.
We are Anonymous.'
When the video came
out on January 21st,
that was one of the first times
Anonymous as a culture started
referring to itself as Anonymous,
as a movement.
That video probably changed
'We are Anonymous. We are legion.
We do not forgive. We do not forget.
'Expect us.'
It basically looked like if a
computer was going to tell you that
he was going to beat the shit out of
you, that's what it would look like.
That one video really galvanised
that moment of innovation.
With that video, internet activism
as it's known today, was born.
And you just see this consensus
forming that it's going to happen
so we made the code of conduct.
Don't bring weapons.
Dress accordingly.
Cover your faces cos they will try
and find out who you are
and screw with your life.
'Rule number 17 - cover your face.
'This will prevent your
identification from videos
'taken by hostiles.'
Scientology has a history of
harassing, stalking and generally
doing horrible things to its critics
so people needed a way to
hide their identities.
A lot of people had very
legitimate fears.
They don't want to be followed home,
or put their families or
themselves in danger.
Everyone was going,
"We're going to wear a mask."
What's the only fucking mask that we
already know or have a joke about?
It's the Guy Fawkes mask.
You see the movie V For Vendetta,
the ending scene where everyone's
wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.
That is very reminiscent of what
Anonymous thinks Anonymous is.
We wanted to represent
anonymity in some way
when it moved into real life.
I think that the Guy Fawkes mask was
one of the most natural things
to happen. It is the idea that
none of us are as cruel as all of us.
You have this massive crowd of people
who are anonymous that is
going to fight against a bigger thing
and win.
Even after watching the video,
yeah, this is great,
but who's actually going to do it?
Who's going to step up?
Are people actually going to get
out of their house?
And I guess we were really
affected by the stereotype of that
whole community being
internet nerds,
too afraid to leave
their moms' basements.
No-one thought that they were
going to come out.
'This is me on the way there.
I haven't slept. Very fucking tired.'
And I remember going to the park that
day and it's really fucking
early in the morning,
which I thought was a bad idea.
Um, I'm smoking a cigarette, looking
round. Where the fuck is everybody?
There's nobody here.
'So here I am sitting in Bryant Park.
'Waiting for the other
Anons to show up.'
I remember thinking, "Oh, fuck, am I
going to be the only one in the park?
"Am I going to walk to Scientology
with fucking six or seven people?"
which totally defeats
the entire purpose of this
because now they could single me out.
Then I get up, start walking around,
and see there's a lot of green
balloons over there for some reason.
On the other side of the park there
was, like, fucking 200 people.
There were Guy Fawkes masks
everywhere and I'm like,
"Holy shit, this is huge!"
'There's a fucking lot of us.
That's pretty good.
'I had no idea how many Anons there
were until we started moving. Ha ha!'
And it just fucking got bigger.
I remember walking through
Times Square
and everybody in Times Square
wasn't enough.
This is like a fucking
1,000-person-per-minute foot traffic
area, and everywhere I'm looking
I'm seeing fucking Anon symbols.
It was fucking wild.
It was really wild.
So we start getting numbers in
and Sydney
We're thinking it's going
to be 50 people.
Before 10:00am, before even time,
there's already 50 people there
and there's still streams of people
walking down the streets.
A couple of hours into it,
cos I didn't go to bed
until one in the morning,
you're looking at Sydney as,
wow, there's 250 people in Sydney.
The cops are estimating higher than
that for their reports.
What just happened?
Adelaide, Perth
and Melbourne happened
and over 200 at each of them.
We nearly broke 1,000
leaving Australia.
Now, the next protest was Tel Aviv,
which had actually
got its first Scientology building
right before this.
There were Palestinians
and Israelis at this protest,
both holding their flags.
At one point, they switched flags
and held up each other's flags.
It was awesome to see.
I call our guy in London,
BritAnon, and I say,
"Hey, what's going on there?"
And he's like,
"Did you just get out of bed?"
I said, "I haven't turned on
the computer. I just figured
I'd call you."
He said, "We've got 600 people
"and the cops are really,
really mad at me."
All the major cities were having
hundreds of people come out. Massive.
Clearwater had, like, 300 people.
I don't think anyone beat out LA.
I think LA had over 1,000 people.
The thing that happened was
something completely different and
hundreds and hundreds of people from
every city just swarmed the streets.
It was kind overwhelming,
a little scary, but in a good way.
Soon we're at the 10,000 mark.
We were joking all the time,
"Over 9,000",
you know, one of those memes.
It was too surreal.
It was not believable.
You go by what name?
We are Anonymous.
It was very empowering,
especially after people saw
the thousands of people showing up.
This was it. We owned the world at
that point. We all met each other.
The idea of an anon is you're fucking
alone until you get to 4chan.
Then these people think like you.
Then, all of a sudden,
you're not alone.
You are with fucking 500 others.
They all know the same jokes as you.
They all have clearly similar
interests as you.
Here's your culture.
You meet your own people finally.
It's perhaps a little surprising,
it's not just pre-teens or
There's a far more even mix of males
and females than you would
imagine otherwise.
You know, there were
a lot of so-called guys who weren't
socially good.
They were very awkward.
They still lived at home at 23.
Half of them virgins.
And I'll tell you, the amount
of those people who got laid
from these protests happening
is in the thousands that
would not have, for years probably.
That's why those protests
were so important.
There was a chance to finally meet
other people that were
previously anonymous and unknown
and, hence, it was the moment
of the end of their anonymity.
Scientology, they kind of
fought back, so to speak.
They posted stuff online.
'While claiming they are peaceful,
in less than three weeks,
'Anonymous members
made or encouraged
'8,139 harassing or
threatening phone calls.
'3.6 million malicious emails.
'141 million hits
against church websites.
'10 acts of vandalism.
'22 bomb threats.
'And eight death threats
against members
'and officials of the Church
of Scientology.'
They wanted to find me.
They did. They hired PIs.
They started taking pictures of us,
threatening to sue us.
I did the whole
Low Orbit Ion Cannon stuff
and then I pretty much went about
my life after that for six months.
Then the FBI showed up
here at my parents' house.
Two men got out of the car.
Flashed their guns.
Took their jackets off and laid
their guns on the front seat
and came up to ask us
if Brian was home. And, um
explained that they were the FBI
and they were looking for Brian
and I've never been so scared.
I did the second most damage,
is what Scientology said.
I sent the second most out of
everybody so I got the maximum for my
category which was one year in prison
and one year's supervised release.
I think, the way I feel,
for what I did was one of the most,
like, lopsided punishments
I've ever read about or heard of.
Yeah, I think it's ridiculous,
especially the year supervised
release, where I can't touch
a computer for a year.
I'm not sure what that's
supposed to solve,
except to make my life difficult.
So that computer behind me back
there, I could go back to prison
if I went over and touched it.
I'm very proud of what he did.
He stood up for what he believed in.
I never would even dream
of hurting anybody.
It's just not me.
Prior to Anonymous,
critics of the Church still had to
be very, very careful because of
the aggressive law suits that were
launched against academics,
journalists and other critics.
I would say that era's over
and Anonymous, more than
any other intervention,
is probably responsible
for that change.
It's actually caused a decent rift
in Anonymous.
There was one significant
group of people who'd say,
"This Chanology stuff is cancer,
it's awful, it's bad.
"It's just bringing attention to us
that we don't want."
When Anon said it, well, once,
"There is no leader,"
their ops have momentary leaders,
de facto leaders.
Almost through meritocracy there's
more respected or more
persistent participants.
Some people participate
in a single operation
and are never heard from again.
Maybe a housewife who agrees with
that political statement or protest.
If you had asked me all throughout
2008 and most of 2009,
is the politics of Anonymous always
going to be sutured and hinged to
the Church of Scientology?
I would have said yes.
And it became unsutured, unhinged
when a different political wing
was born in 2010.
It is our task to find
secret abusive plans
and expose them where they can be
opposed before they are implemented.
The interesting thing about someone
like Assange is that he
actually also
sprang from a hacker culture.
It's a mentality of spreading
information. Julian was Mendax.
He was the greatest hacker that ever
walked the face of the earth
when I was a kid.
I mean, they rumoured he could move
satellites around in space
by hacking into NASA.
Maybe it never happened,
but it was a myth that kept
young kids like me wanting to plug
a computer into a modem and see if
I could move some satellites around.
WikiLeaks is an extenuation
of the hacker ethos.
Truth wants to be free
and we want to liberate it.
WikiLeaks released a huge
trove of diplomatic cables.
There was a lot of controversy
from every quarter of society.
The WikiLeaks website released
nearly 400,000 secret US files
on the Iraq war today.
It was the largest leak
of classified US files in history.
There was one particular moment that
really sparked the fire and this was
when PayPal, MasterCard and Amazon
pulled services for WikiLeaks.
So, all of a sudden, there's no way
to process donations to WikiLeaks.
Then people went
and found neo-Nazi groups.
Visa and MasterCard were perfectly
fine with you being able to
make donations to them.
But, WikiLeaks? No.
The numbers of participants were
massive, massive.
And they managed,
over the course of a couple of days,
to disable the websites
of MasterCard and PayPal.
It was beautiful,
cos what you had is people finally
stood up for something.
My name's Pete Fein. You can call me
an interknot or a hacktervist.
Telecomix is an ad hoc cluster
of volunteer net activists who
have spent much of last year to keep
the internet running
in the Middle East.
In the lead up to the Egyptian
we would tweet on people's behalf.
We would get people from Egypt,
who were unable to access
Twitter on their own, on our network
and we would take reports from them
and tweet them out using our account,
to help them get the word out
about what they were experiencing.
Some of this shit is personal
and one of the things
about the movement as a whole,
when Egypt rolled around, is that
Egypt broke us emotionally.
Watching in real time with live
feeds that we helped set up,
Egyptians get massacred
with machine guns.
It was different and I have never,
in cyber activism, wept before.
It's never bothered me like that.
It's never been able to touch me
the way Egypt touched me.
And then January 27th, January 28th
rolls around and the Egyptian
government starts shutting down
the internet for the whole country.
There's this fantastic traffic graph
that you can see the traffic
coming out of Egypt. It's like this,
goes like that. Just totally stops.
We were just shocked, like,
"What the fuck?"
To think a country would completely
cut itself off as much as it
was able to from the outside world,
was pretty unthinkable.
You know, we know bad things
go on in the dark places.
I put myself in their place
and I found myself in a desert
of nothingness cos
he just wiped out everything
that my world incorporated.
That showed me and everybody
else that the same thing can
happen at any time,
anywhere in any government.
Anonymous and the people
on the internet stood up and said,
"Go fuck yourself."
You want to shut down
their internet? Fine.
The people on the internet will
show them how to turn it back on.
In Egypt, the care package
we put together included some comms
information, radio
and dial modem details.
In total, we helped coordinate and
run about 500 dial-up modem lines.
We also Googled up treatments
for tear gas and other basic
medical treatment and found folks who
could translate that into Arabic.
We put this together in a nice
one-page PDF, a fax, and off it goes.
President Hosni Mubarak
has decided to
step down from the office
of President of the Republic.
We had Egyptians come thank us
as we're doing this stuff.
I said, "Look, you guys just get
our back if stuff goes down here."
It's a revolution that was
facilitated by the internet,
by Facebook and by Twitter.
Not caused by it.
50 years of dictatorship has
caused the Arab Spring
but the internet has
certainly been helping.
Suddenly on February 5th,
the Financial Times article comes
out that we all see.
It's quoting this guy
named Aaron Barr,
who's the CEO of HBGary Federal,
which is an intelligence contractor.
Aaron Barr is telling this Financial
Times journalist Joseph Menn that
he's been secretly monitoring
the server where all this has
been going on and has done so
for several weeks
and using his own custom brand of
information operations techniques,
has managed to identify
the alleged leadership of Anonymous
including "25 lieutenants"
of some sort.
We have to see this document.
Everyone wants to know.
We don't need to destroy him.
We don't need to destroy
his company, so they get it.
It was unbelievably easy to
get into that network.
To put that in hacker terms,
Anonymous is a hornet's nest
and Barr said, "I'm going to
stick my penis in that thing."
The HBGary hack
brought about 70,000 emails.
Probably the most important ones had
to do with a proposal that
HBGary had already formulated.
It was packaged up as a nice
PowerPoint presentation,
kind of act as privatised
agent provocateurs where
they were going to discredit
HBGary was proposing submitting
fake documents to WikiLeaks
and then, when discovered as fake,
the error could be called out
and it would discredit WikiLeaks.
So there's a lot of specifics
I can't talk about so let me
try to answer that,
though, in a general sense.
First of all, it's probably no
surprise to anybody I'm not
a big fan of WikiLeaks.
I think the broad purpose
of trying
to get as much proprietary or
classified information
from the government
and expose that is an extremely
destructive and dangerous purpose.
The proposals involved conducting
information war on WikiLeaks
and its supporters, creating
dissension within WikiLeaks.
The US attacks.
You also wanted to launch
cyber attacks on the WikiLeaks'
to get information
on document submitters.
One thing I want to make
sure is clear is
none of those activities
had actually occurred.
In business there's
When you start proposing
or thinking about an idea,
there's a brainstorming phase and
somebody says, "What could we do?"
"What's theoretically possible?"
But still this was an idea.
This was proposed. It was something
that you thought about. Right.
They also wanted to go on a campaign
targeting Glenn Greenwald,
who is a reporter for Salon.
He's an outspoken critic of
the government
and supporter of WikiLeaks.
It seems like you're trying to
attack a journalist here. Yeah.
Yeah, and I, you know,
I don't want to talk too much
more about Glenn Greenwald, other
than what I've previously said.
You know, there was never an intent
to attack journalists.
Not on my part.
I should generalise that
to say I would never just outwardly
attack a journalist,
other than if I felt there was
a journalist, in my mind,
that was acting unethically.
That is That's fair game for
having a public discussion about.
They were walking a very fine
ethical line at points.
And in many cases the mass opinion
is, "No, they stepped well past it."
I will not support broad theft of
information released to the public,
because that's nothing
but destructive.
If somebody has information that's
been stolen from them,
whether or not WikiLeaks encouraged
the theft of that
or whether or not
it was just put in their lap,
still they're threatening to
release the information
that was the private
property of another organisation.
So your choices are to just allow
that to happen or to try to stop it.
How offensive is too offensive?
We've certainly seen
a lot of strategy coming out
of governments across the world
now saying,
publicly admitting that they need
to develop better offensive
strategies in cyber security,
because defence as a whole isn't
enough, it never is enough.
In the court of public opinion,
that took HBGary quickly from
being a perceived victim to being
a perceived a villain themselves.
It was becoming harder and harder
to distinguish the good guys
from the bad guys.
And then kind of seemingly
out of the blue
there was something by the name
LulzSec that sailed into the seas.
LulzSec is sort of a group
mostly from Anonymous who
a large part of the same people
who hacked HBGary.
And they decide to form
this little group
and carry on operations outside the
purview of Anonymous for a while.
The majority of Anons are not doing
anything particularly illegal.
When they are, a huge number of them
try to do that in a very specific
political context.
For those people,
what LulzSec was doing,
they were funny but they were
attacking random targets,
they were breaking the quasi
rules by attacking media.
PBS's Frontline runs a documentary
mainly focused on Bradley Manning
the allegedly leaker to WikiLeaks.
And a lot of Bradley Manning
supporters didn't like it.
They hacked a website putting
a story that Tupac and Biggie
had escaped the world of celebrity
fame and attention
and retired quietly
and discreetly in New Zealand.
When they attacked PBS,
that gave me the creeps, you know.
As a journalist I'm not too thrilled
with the idea of someone judging,
"We don't like you to write that."
"We don't like your reporting,
so we're going to shut down
your website."
I'm uncomfortable with that.
It could be me
and I could be writing something
about a group they didn't like.
And I'm happy to sit and talk
with them about it,
but don't shut my website down.
Hacktivism started to become
sort of almost more nasty,
using more no-holds-barred
kind of attacks,
sort of more vicious attacks.
They sort of saw themselves
as going out there,
breaking into anything, everything,
governments, corporations,
police departments, largely for
the same reason Anonymous would.
They went after Arizona
for immigration policy.
A 50-day run causing mayhem,
havoc and then ended it.
The computer hacking group
Lulz Security
has announced it's disbanding,
saying it had achieved its mission
to disrupt government
and corporate organisations for fun.
I call this whole thing
the rise of the chaotic actor.
And chaotic could be chaotic good,
neutral or evil, if you go back to
the old Dungeons & Dragons charts.
And some people see Anon ops
initially as kind of good.
They saw Operation Payback or
they saw attacking Scientology
and they say that's good,
it's like Robin Hood, right,
chaotic good, outside the system
but doing something good.
Other people saw Anon as kind
of evil like The Joker,
just want to see the world burn
and doing potentially
irreparable damage.
And the truth is, yes, it's
the entire column of chaotic.
I'm actually a little less
concerned about some of the things
LulzSec's done
and more concerned about the next
generation of LulzSec,
the next turn of the crank
of who takes it further
or is more aggressive.
Whoever fights monsters
should see to it
they don't themselves become one.
Really, as powerful as they seem
to be, LulzSec and Anonymous
are really small potatoes
compared to the bigger operations
that are going on
that we don't hear about,
maybe operations
funded by government.
16 people were arrested today.
Dozen of FBI agents targeted
alleged members of the loose knit
hacking group.
Armed with search warrants, agents
hit six homes in New York
along with locations
across the country.
The people arrested yesterday were
suspected of attacking
PayPal's website after the company
shut off payments to WikiLeaks.
Defenders of the hackers say they're
merely engaged in civil protest,
but FBI officials worry
the disruptive cyber attacks
could move in a more
dangerous direction.
So the FBI shows up at six in the
morning. It was really obnoxious.
And I remember being
frustrated and angry
because there was nothing
that I had done
that would have justified
an FBI search warrant.
They came and
guns blazing and all this
other good stuff,
busted down the door. I immediately
just dropped down to the floor, 180.
I wasn't trying to fight nobody.
Even if you accept what the
government is saying is true,
what is important is that people are
participating in the process.
It is very much the process.
It is sitting-in at
a counter in Selma, Alabama,
500 freedom rioters refusing to allow
people to go and sit-in
at a segregated lunch counter.
They write books about that stuff.
It is demonstrating at a
street corner saying no to a war.
It's just a different vehicle.
It's the same result.
There's always going to be
legal consequence
when you decide to break the law.
That comes with the territory.
And it would be naive
not to expect that.
The question is whether
the punishment
will be proportional to the crime.
And I suspect it might not be.
People will be watching very closely
to see how these cases proceed,
on what grounds and whether there's
any room during the trials
to think, especially of the
denial-of-service attacks,
as a legitimate form of protest.
So much of our lives are now
configured at least in part
on the internet,
so we better
start thinking about how
we claim parts of the internet
as spaces we can also protest in.
There is a certain online culture
that believes in certain values,
like freedom of expression,
they're against corruption,
they're against governments
controlling their citizens.
And when they see those values
harmed in some way,
by some organisation,
the hacktivists strike back.
I don't think this whole issue
is a technical hacking thing,
this is more about human
philosophy and psychology.
What's motivating us?
Why is there so much unrest
or disenfranchisement or anger
that would lead people
to want to take matters
in their own hands and join in.
Whether you think it's bad or not is
irrelevant, it's not going away.
The part of me that likes
the ability
to have rapid destabilisation
and change loves this.
The part that knows
how powerful it is,
means it's a force multiplier
for good or for evil.
And how that power is wielded
and how we want to self-regulate
is going to be the most
deciding factor
in whether this is a menace
or a benefit.
I certainly don't think most of the
conversations in law enforcement
or the government
are informed enough
to know how to deal with this.
I suppose the question you really
want to ask is, would I do it again?
Erm and honestly after
thinking about it
I felt that I did what was right.
I had a belief, I still do,
that what I did was the right thing.
And hopefully someone got
some good out of it.
I'd love to think that maybe I
stopped someone from joining a cult.
I probably wouldn't tell them
myself next time,
but I don't think I would have
changed a single thing other than
the whole talking
to the FBI thing.
It's just that little detail.
It's just that little detail
that changed everything, yeah.
I'm angry.
Occasionally, I have small
breakdown moments
of terror.
But I haven't stopped believing
what I believed.
I haven't stopped wanting to fight.
I haven't stopped caring.
Tell me what democracy
looks like! ♪
I don't care if you're
a Democrat or a Republican
or an Independent
or if you like Ron Paul.
Or if you worship pigeons or
Scientology or if you're Catholic
or atheist or Methodist.
I don't care about that.
Your opinion matters.
I don't care if I disagree with it.
I don't care if I hate your guts.
Your opinion matters.
Next Episode