Members of Anonymous have hit out at a splinter group that has seized control of AnonOps, the online operations hub of the ‘hacktivist’ collective and home to the group’s IRC chat server, leaking the IP addresses of some 653 users onto the Internet.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, two members familiar with the inner workings of AnonOps rebutted a number of accusations levelled at the site’s network staff by a user named Ryan, the key figure behind what moderators have called a “coup d’etat”.
Far from being run by an elite cabal using a private channel to carry out what Ryan alleges is “behind-the-scenes string-pulling”, the Anonymous members claim the IRC channel consisted of “far, far more” than the ten users Ryan claims – and that it was used by AnonOps mods solely for administrative purposes.
“[Ryan] accuses us of trying to control Anonymous from behind the scenes,” one Anon said, referring to thinq_'s earlier interview with the coup leader. “In fact, the channel he refers to was for chat moderation and he himself was part of it.”
“Like the speaker of parliament, we didn't make laws but we ensured an environment existed in which they could be made. So most of the talk in there was network maintenance, server issues, floods, attacks on us and how to counteract them, etc.”
The Anons claimed that, due to its hive-like structure, it was impossible for AnonOps to be undemocratic: “If you wanted to start your own operation on AnonOps, all you have to do is create a new channel for it, register it, and get people interested.”
“Obviously, some people get well known and others look to them for advice, but nobody can control the hive,” one Anon said. “If Anonymous really wants to do something, no one person can stop them.”
Ryan is accused of acting contrary to the collective’s democratic principles by intimidating other users with the threat of a botnet of “hijacked” computers he is rumoured to control – and which some reports estimate may consist of as many as 800,000 machines – the equivalent, said one Anon, of “negotiating with someone who has a bazooka casually slung over their shoulder”.
The two Anons thinq_ spoke to cast doubt on that figure, but admitted: “One of our major fears now is that he will use [the] botnet now to attack AnonOps if we succeed in taking it back.”
The two were adamant that the “firepower” referred to by Ryan in our earlier interview was neither voluntary, nor did it have anything to do with Anonymous.
They said it was “interesting” that Ryan has broken with Anonymous tradition by outing his identity, describing him as an “arrogant and narcissistic” personality.
One of the Anons compared the rebellious former staffer to the famous Caldera volcanic crater in Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park.
“We all knew Ryan was dangerous,” the Anon said. “Just how dangerous nobody was quite sure. He has always had little outbursts. We knew one day there would be a massive one, but we were never sure when.”
The rift, thinq_ heard, wasn’t the product of a big falling-out, but “a string of smaller ones”.
“Remember that there have only been ‘groups’ in this way for a couple of days… up until last week, we were all on the same side,” the Anons said.
One aspect of the “hostile takeover” that provoked outright condemnation was the leaking of users’ IP addresses – raising the spectre that they could be used to identify participants of earlier actions such as DDoS attacks.
“I don't see how anyone could claim to be working for the general good of Anonymous, by putting hundreds of Anons in danger of being arrested,” one said. “Most of the people on that list aren't operators, they are just ordinary users who aren't involved in administrative drama between server owners. It was completely unfair to them in my opinion, to use them in this way. I believe that he is trying to damage the network as much as possible.”
The Anons also said that, contrary to claims made by the splinter group, its members were heavily involved in OpSony, the Anonymous campaign launched after the electronics giant was accused of legally hounding hackers for jailbreaking its PlayStation 3 games console so it could run third-party firmware.
But on the specific topic of the recent PSN hacking, the two were clear: Anonymous was not involved.
“I believe the hackers were simply opportunistic,” said one. “They saw that Sony was involved in a battle with Anonymous. They knew they could easily do this unnoticed. And they knew that if they left an Anonymous slogan ("We are legion") on the server, they could shift focus from themselves.”
“I don't think you'd find a single Anonymous operation in the history of the entire hive which involved trying to steal money from people,” they said. “That's just not what it's about.”
During our interview, one of the Anons reported that AnonOps had got its communications hub up and running again at Anonops.li – another of the domains the group mass-registered last December, along with the seized Anonops.net and Anonops.ru. The two Anons appeared trepidant about whether it was safe and secure from attack by the faction who had seized control of the original AnonOps site.
“It may take a few days, but the end goal is to reclaim the network and de-link servers loyal to Ryan,” they said.
Whether or not the hive mind will recover quickly from its recent sting, the coming days will tell.