The “total war” that Anonymous declared earlier this month against Donald Trump has quickly devolved into a civil war among hackers fighting within the group and pro-Trump supporters who are trolling them within their chat rooms.
Back in early March, hackers affiliated with Anonymous tried to reboot their Operation Trump campaign by calling for everyone to take down Trump’s websites in a coordinated effort on April 1. Almost immediately, the initiative was criticised by people within Anonymous as irresponsible and “cringeworthy,” but a dedicated group apparently moved on with the plan.
It’s April 1st: Many of the GOP frontrunner’s sites are still standing, there are now two competing “Op: Trump” chatrooms with totally different missions, and one of them has been flooded with pro-Trump supporters and others leaving trolling comments like “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
In short: The so-called war seems to be a complete disaster.
‘A mess is happening’
It’s unclear when the split between Anonymous factions occurred, but it seems to have happened sometime after a hacker named Beemsee, who has been leading the original OpTrump effort, released a new statement claiming that attacking Trump’s websites was all a ruse for publicity around April Fools’ Day.
“There is no DDoS,” Beemse and two other hackers wrote, using the acronym for a distributed denial-of-service attack, a tactic used to overload a website. “It’s only purpose was to gain attention, which this Operation needs. … the point of this Operation is not to attack Donald Trump. Instead, it is going to try to give citizens some insight.”
Beemse and their cohorts say in their statement that people should try and capture “the darker nature of Trump’s supporters” and post it on social media sites with hashtags like #OpTrump and #Trump2016.
But a hacker called AnonymousLoyalist disagreed. In a competing statement, the hacker wrote that they moved to a “far more organised channel, which has already seen unsurprisingly large amounts of success.” That channel is #OpTrump2016, but it was unclear exactly what that success boiled down to.
When Tech Insider viewed the #OpTrump2016 chat room on Friday, it was an unorganized mess. Most Anonymous chatrooms are moderated in some way, and people usually get kicked out for spamming or posting nonsense. But it appeared to be flooded with trolls intent on calling them children, “social justice warriors,” and more often than not, homophobic slurs.
“A mess is happening,” wrote one user in #OpTrump, expressing a shared frustration among others in Beemse’s chatroom.
The “war” goes on
It was clear on Friday that at least some of Trump’s websites were indeed under cyberattack. The website CitizensForTrump.com is currently unreachable, and the site for Trump’s hotels brought up an error for a few seconds before pulling up a cached version powered by CloudFlare, a service that protects from attacks like this.
Anonymous may be able to bring down some of Trump’s unprotected websites, but they will almost certainly come back online after a few hours or days. And many of his other sites are probably not at risk at all, since Tech Insider previously spoke with CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince, and he wasn’t particularly worried.
“DDoS attacks are not particularly sophisticated cyber attacks,” Prince said. “They are sort of the functional equivalent of a caveman with a club.”
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Tech Insider. However, spokesperson Hope Hicks previously told TI: “The government and law enforcement authorities are seeking the arrest of the people responsible for attempting to illegally hack Mr. Trump’s accounts and telephone information.”
Depending on who you believe in Anonymous, the plan is a coordinated DDoS attack or a social media shaming campaign against Trump’s supporters. But Beemse left open the possibility of something else, perhaps an actual way to take over one of their targeted websites — which the hacker collective has been scanning for vulnerabilities since the beginning.
“This is NOT the last time you hear of this operation,” Beemse wrote. “We will be watching, and will act when the time is right.”