Last week's arrests of 21 hackers worldwide was supposed to sound like a warning shot over the bow of LulzSec and Anonymous. The arrest happened in the U.S., the U.K. and the Netherlands and came just two weeks after a series of 32 raids of hackers homes in Italy. The two groups denied that authorities had nabbed anybody significant. "To be honest I don't see a single major Anon hacker (or at least any hacker that's wrecked things for the entire year) come close to arrest," the groups' de facto spokesperson Topiary told The Atlantic Wire.
Indeed, this week, some relatively new Anonymous-affiliated groups launched fresh attacks on new turf. As an apparent retaliation to the recent crackdown, a group called themselves LOAD (Legion of Anonymous Doom) claims to have broken into Italy's cyber crime unit, CNAIPIC, and stolen 8 gigabytes worth of data. They accused the Italian government of stealing evidence from "the seized property of suspected computer professional entertainers"--presumably the hackers arrest earlier this month--"to conduct illegal operations with foreign intelligence agencies and oligarchy to facilitate their lust for power and money." The release preview included an assortment of files, including photos of the officers.
Meanwhile, another groups calling themselves AnonAustria broke into the site of GIS, the Austrian government's television licensing agency, and stole the information for 96,000 accounts. The agency admitted to the breach Monday and said they would file a complaint against the unknown attackers. The same group also recently attacked the websites of Austria's two major political parties. After those attacks a representative told the Kurier newspaper in Vienna, "We won’t stop in the foreseeable future. ... Most of us are ready to risk getting punished for what they are doing. ... Some of us may calm down if lawmakers show the will to allow more direct democracy."
As many cyber security experts have said before, even these latest attacks are more of a nuisance than a threat. Nevertheless, U.S. authorities seem disheartened. Friday, Randy Vickers resigned from his post as the director of the agency tasked with protecting the federal government from cyber attacks. As head of the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), a part of the Department of Homeland Security, Vickers saw attacks on the Navy, the FBI and CIA as well as government contractors Booz Allen Hamilton and IRC Federal. The move also comes as the Pentagon launches its new strategy on cyber warfare.
As frustrated as the U.S., Austrian and Italian governments must be, some experts remain optimistic about the lasting effect of this year's hacker rash. Based on the first part of a series on cybercrime at CNN Money published on Monday, they think that the attacks will only improve cyber security:
If there's anything positive to come from all the attention they've been getting, it's that hacktivists have rattled the apple cart enough to shine a light on the global cybersecurity problem.
"The great irony of all of this is that LulzSec has had a positive effect on security," said Deepak Taneja, chief technology officer of Aveksa, a security software company. "They're nothing, they're pranksters. But all the press that they're getting has helped security permeate the C-suite level at companies. Now, they're waking up to the risk management they really need to defend against the more serious threats."
Nevertheless, the latest attacks from the new-sounding Anonymous offshoots show how the group is splintering off into smaller organizations. As we've said before, the worldwide organization known as Anonymous is much like a Hydra--if you chop off one head, another grows in its place. Based on the reaction from those at Anonymous's main accounts on Twitter, they welcome the diaspora. "Let us remind you, FBI: Your threats to arrest us are meaningless to us as you cannot arrest an idea," the group tweeted.