International hacking collective Anonymous declared “war” on ISIS this past weekend — a declaration it ascribes to the Paris attacks that occurred last Friday which resulted in the death of 129 people.
The group has reportedly had an impact already in helping Twitter to identify “thousands” of pro-ISIS social media accounts, and by outing alleged ISIS members’ personal information. And there’s loads more weaponry in Anonymous’ arsenal that it’s still yet to use.
But what is Anonymous? Where does it come from? What does the group do? And what is its goal?
The group's origins aren't definitive, but most accounts trace Anonymous back to 4chan: an online forum where users' identities are obscured by forced anonymity.
The group, populated primarily by 4chan members its formative years, first went after an online game named 'Habbo Hotel.' The intention wasn't to hack, but to troll.
For example, Anonymous flooded the game with extra characters, essentially making it impossible to play for everyone else.
In 2008, the group evolved in a fundamental way: it became involved with 'Project Chanology,' an anti-Scientology movement.
When the Church of Scientology sought to repress an internal promo video featuring Tom Cruise, Anonymous members focused on making it as public as possible.
Anonymous spread the video through as many download sites as possible.
But things got much more political during the Arab Spring protests, which started in Tunisia in late 2010. Anonymous members supported the revolutionaries, and helped by engaging in cyberattacks on the former Tunisian government.
The group was also involved in Egypt, where it helped to share information and images that were being blocked by the Egyptian government.
More recently, Anonymous took aim at anti-homosexual groups and legislature, like the Westboro Baptist Church and the government of Uganda (where laws prohibiting homosexuality were being considered).
Which isn't to say things are all political: the attack on Sony that brought down the PlayStation Network -- Sony's online PlayStation service -- was perpetrated by members of Anonymous.
And earlier this year, it promised vengeance for the attack on French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.
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