The powers of the West report on the growing concern of "hactivism" of groups like Anonymous.
NATO is an alliance of nations formed in 1949 to solidify the relationship of mutual defense for North America and western Europe after World War II. Today, the members of NATO account for almost 70 percent of the world's spending on defense. Preventing attacks of any type on its members is of utmost importance to the organization, so it only makes sense that NATO analyze possible cyber-attacks on its military and defense computer systems. A report called "Information and National Security" from General Rapporteur Lord Jopling of the UK discusses the potential good of social networks for fostering democracy, the WikiLeaks scandal, and how hacktivists need to be burned at the stake.
"Virtual communities operating online provide new opportunities for civil society, but they have also increased the potential for asymmetrical attacks," the report says. "Apart from causing harm, destruction or conducting espionage, most recent cyber attacks have also been used as a means to reach a rather different goal. 'Hactivism' is a relatively recent form of social protest or expression of ideology by using hacking techniques."
The report then singles out Anonymous as an example of this new trend by relating the group's support of Julian Assange's WikiLeaks. But that "info-war" is only the beginning, according to NATO's report. "Observers note that Anonymous is becoming more and more sophisticated and could potentially hack into sensitive government, military, and corporate files." The report then explainis how Anonymous hacked government contractor HBGary's servers and the CEO's Twitter account after the group revealed the government's plans to take down WikiLeaks.
The report continues:
Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted.
Perhaps Lord Jopling should have used the word "prosecute" instead of "persecute" which means "to harass persistently" or "to pursue with oppressive treatment, especially because of religion, race, or beliefs."
I mean, I definitely think that it's important for governments to be aware of the dangers that hacking can pose, but I'm not sure that oppressing them in return is the right move. As Stephen Colbert said of the Anonymous attacks, you don't want to stick your penis into the hornet's nest.