”We Are Legion”
Vol: 123 Issue: 27 Tuesday, December 27, 2011
The hacker group, Anonymous, reportedly hacked into the client area at the security think-tank, Stratfor, on Christmas Day, stealing the credit cards and personal information of thousands of subscribers.
Evidently Stratfor did not think it necessary to encrypt the information.
Consequently, thousands of Stratfor subscribers are at risk of having their credit and other personal information either used to make purchases or published on the internet.
(Among the Stratfor subscribers at risk? Me. We canceled that card yesterday and updated our file at LifeLock).
Before going on, let me say that NOBODY is at risk should the OL’s database ever get hacked. We don’t collect ANY financial information online. Or any information that could be useful to an identity thief.
Credit card transactions are through PayPal — we have no access to it, and neither could anybody else. Whenever we process a credit card transaction, we do so over the telephone, and none of that information is ever stored online.
That said, who is “Anonymous” and what do they want? The emergence of such a group was inevitable — it is the product of something called “online disinhibition”.
The core concept of the online disinhibition effect refers to a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction.
For example, few people would break into a circle of friends having a meaningful discussion with the intention of disrupting the discussion and ridiculing the participants, hoping to incite as much anger as possible in the process.
Part of the reason that happens so seldom in the real world is that in the real world, that might earn somebody a punch in the nose. In the online world, there is no risk of any meaningful reprisal.
In most Internet forum environments, the worst thing that can happen is the offender might be banned, but as a sanction, this is essentially meaningless. One can circumvent the ban by registering another username or by disguising one’s IP address.
As I mentioned earlier, the emergence of a subculture of similarly disinhibited individuals was inevitable — one might credit the phenomenon of online disinhibition for the development and design of the Omega Letter forums.
The purpose for the OL’s $10.00 per month membership fee was never about making money. It has always served instead as a gatekeeper to our member’s forums, by deliberate design.
Nobody is going to fork over cash, not even ten bucks, just for the fun of disrupting a Christian forum. Even if they did, once we banned them, it would cost them another ten bucks to re-register under a different username.
That could soon get expensive. And, since our membership is relatively small, they tend to stick out, so they don’t last long.
In any case, it’s hard to disrupt a forum where every single member has the authority to make an offensive post disappear via our ‘dust button’.
(Wanna make a bunch of Christians mad? Cost ya ten bucks. Wanna do it again? That’ll be another ten bucks. See ya!)
Returning to the concept of online disinhibition in general, psychologist John Suler has isolated six primary factors behind online disinhibition.
- You don’t know me. The hacker group, Anonymous, takes its very name from this principle. When a person remains anonymous, they are protected from retaliation.
- You can’t see me. If you’re invisible, you can be anybody you want to, and nobody is the wiser. You can’t see whoever you are tormenting, because they are invisible, too, which makes it easier to drop one’s natural inhibitions.
- See you later. A person can post something inflammatory or personal or just plain mean, and then run away by simply logging off.
- It’s all in my head. Since you don’t actually know a person on the internet, one can invent traits and characteristics to another online poster, reading into a post some emotional barbs that aren’t there, and responding in kind.
- It’s all just a game. To the one pressing the online attack it becomes a game where the normal rules of everyday interaction don’t apply. A user can separate his online persona from his offline reality, sort of like a secret identity.
- We’re Equals. Online, everybody is the same. You don’t know if the person you’re interacting with in a forum is a war hero, a fraud, the head of a major corporation, a retired janitor or a US Congressman. People are reluctant to speak their minds in front of an authority figure. On the internet, levels of authority that would be present in real-life don’t exist.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the hacker group, Anonymous, emerged out of a sense of shared identity on internet message boards, ultimately becoming a collective of unnamed individuals operating on the principle of online disinhibition.
“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
So, Anonymous is a group of hackers that operate on the principle of online disinhibition. It is reasonable to assume that they don’t see themselves as criminals. Or thieves.
They probably see themselves as modern-day incarnations of Robin Hood. According to a warning issued by Stratfor:
“It’s come to our attention that our members who are speaking out in support of us on Facebook may be being targeted for doing so and are at risk of having sensitive information repeatedly published on other Web sites. So, in order to protect yourselves, we recommend taking security precautions when speaking out on Facebook or abstaining from it altogether.”
It’s good advice. I have no intention of speaking out in support of Statfor. If I hadn’t already canceled my membership, I would have canceled it again today. I can’t believe they kept that information online, let alone unencrypted.
As a group, Anonymous has adopted the Occupy Wall Street (and its various incarnations) and has promised to disrupt as much as possible the US and global banking systems.
Why? They don’t know. What will happen if they succeed? They don’t care. What is their goal? That is the most fascinating aspect of this whole phenomenon.
Their goal is evidently murder-suicide, since they hope to murder the global system, of which they are a part.
If the system fails, what makes them think the internet will continue to operate? The internet is a commercial enterprise. Remove the commercial aspect of it, and what happens?
Maybe it will continue to operate for free?
The internet is also a collection of computers linked by phone lines. Computers run on electricity. Do they think when the economy crashes that electric companies will keep on churning out the juice for free — to go along with a free internet?
Will the telephone linemen keep on coming to work and maintaining phone lines after they crash the system? And that is the point.
The goal of Anonymous is no different than the goal of your typical forum crasher. The goal of the forum crasher isn’t getting banned — that is simply the price demanded for achieving their goal — which is the disruption itself.
They’ve given no thought to what will happen if they are successful. The goal is lawlessness — or more specifically — getting away with lawlessness. Just like a forum disrupter whose goal is to see how far he can push before getting banned.
Look back up the page to the six factors that together create the phenomenon of online disinhibition. It’s lawlessness in six easy steps.
“Online disinhibition” as a term, could therefore be defined as follows:
“And because iniquity [lawlessness] shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” (Matthew 24:12)
The word translated ‘iniquity’ by the KJV translators is anomia which means “lawlessness.”
“For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only He who now letteth [katecho: withhold, restrain] will let, until He be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming:” (2 Thessalonians 2:7-8)
Paul calls it a “mystery” (musterion) — a Divine secret being revealed for the first time. Well, the secret is out. Every day, we have a new example of what is rapidly becoming a kind of institutionalized lawlessness.
Starting at the top with the UN and working downward through the various government administrations, (Obama, Putin, Ahmandinejad, Abbas, Assad, Kim Jong Un, etc.,) and moving down through the various corporations, ultimately ending up at the media’s embrace of the “occupiers” and the emergence of Anonymous, the central theme of the 21st century so far has been lawlessness.
The entire theme of lawlessness has been dumbed-down to the degree that nothing we read seems really shocking anymore. Honestly, how shocked were you to learn that a guy dressed in a Santa suit gunned down his entire family on Christmas Day?
It’s awful — we can all agree on that. But shocking? It used to be. But that was before iniquity abounded — and love waxed cold.
“So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:31-32)
The generation of whom the Lord spoke will turn sixty-four in May.
Tick. . .tick . . .tick