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Internet is created by us: Hacktivist group Anonymous
"Speak. "This curt message from @OpIndia_Revenge was all that popped up in response to an earlier request for an internet chat with Anonymous, the hacktivists behind the recent large-scale takedowns of many ISP and government websites, among others. It had been only a few hours since the launch of the group's 'Operation India'. Soon, TOI-Crest would be in a chatroom on IRC (Internet Relay Chat) with two members of the world's most famous hacker group. Launched in mid-May, Operation India (or OpIndia) was launched by Anonymous in protest against internet censorship after filesharing websites like The Pirate Bay, Vimeo, Daily Motion and many others were blocked here. Anonymous attacked the online portals of several government and private organisations, including the Department of Telecommunications, the Supreme Court of India, Reliance Big Entertainment (RBE) and more. TOI-Crest chatted with different members of the clan over the course of a few days. And whenever they were asked how they would like to be addressed, the answer was always the same: "as a group, always. There are no individuals, there is no head. "Excerpts from the chats. . .
What exactly is the DDoS form of attack that you use?
Say there was a restaurant with a seating capacity of 100 and we have 200 people going there, the sudden load will hamper its operation. Similarly, every server has a fixed capacity for the number of incoming connections. So we direct hundreds of machines, from all over the world to a website to bring it down. That's a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. But there are always rules that are set. For example, we won't deface a website. That is actually hacking and putting something else. We don't harm the websites or delete content. That's terrorism. We don't want to be labelled terrorists.
How do you choose whom to attack?
The targets were those mainly responsible for what's happening to the internet in India. For example, everyone in our group started saying Reliance Entertainment needs to go down because of the John Doe order they issued during Don 2 and Singham releases (Reliance's move allowed for potential pirate websites to be blocked as a preemptive measure against copyright violation). And any other private companies trying to make use of people's ignorance will be brought out into the light.
How do you ascertain that things have gone wrong?
It's more of a decision by the whole - everyone who's a part of Anonymous, including the people tweeting back to us. We don't care if someone says let's take down 'xyz. com' because they are blocking 'abc'. It's for everyone to decide if 'xyz' really needs to be taken down. Many people asked us via Twitter to take down IRCTC and CBSE. But that's not what we want. We too understand what it is to book a tatkal ticket on the IRCTC website. There are many people who are dependent on those.
It's not an 'Indians of Anonymous'discussion then?
Anonymous is independent of citizenship /nationality. We are one;unlabelled.
How do you stop the Anonymous name being misused?
We have our channels that are established. If some hacker who isn't part of the group tries to claim an attack under our name, we decline it through official accounts on Twitter, such as @Anon_Central, which is the collective voice.
You guys are seen as the Robin Hood of the internet. Do you see your actions as a necessary measure to fix the law as it is today?
Laws! Who defines these laws? To correct them, one has to go beyond the limits. Instead of Robin Hood, it's more like Batman ! He doesn't give a dime about laws. He does what is good and what needs to be done for the betterment of all.
Censorship should be a personal choice, not enforced?
Yes. We have parental controls on computers. Every firewall has them. Use filters at your end to block categories of sites like violence, gore, drugs, etc. But no other authority can tell us what we can see and cannot see.
What differentiates the rules for the internet from the rules for the real world?
The internet is created by us. A few people cannot tell us what to do. The difference between the real world and the internet is that on the web, if you don't want your kid to see something, you can make it so. Besides, on the internet, every website that has graphic content intended for adults always carries a warning and an agreement.
What about protecting 'public sentiment', which real-world laws allow for?
Ideas are for everyone. Some may think that it's good;some may think it's bad. Sharing information is not a crime, whatever that information may be. Information cannot be marked as good or bad, ever. The intentions of people using that are beyond the internet.
But an internet without any restrictions would leave it open to questions of 'what is right, what is wrong', wouldn't it?
All we are trying to say is that fight the wars in real life, not on the internet. Take your fight to whoever is serving the 'bad website' and make them shut down. Don't ruin this area - the internet. Few people cannot decide what's good or what's bad. They cannot have power over the most powerful medium in the world.
So in the end someone is still deciding right and wrong. Who has the right to decide? The government is a publicly elected entity. You and I aren't.
What gives the government the right to call us criminals when they themselves have criminals in our Parliament ? If you are hosting pirated content on your server, other countries like the US and Sweden have laws to take it down, or send a request for the same. So do that. Now, what if Pakistan blocks Christian church websites? The sites may be against the sentiments of a majority of the population, but then, is it morally right?
Who decides "morally right" here - publicly elected officials or someone else?
Morals are defined by the people in society as a general. We are the users of the internet. We are the people that created this society. Blocking is not a common conscience;no one except Reliance officials and government want this.
Are you saying that what politicians do is not in accordance with what people want, even if the politicians are elected by the same people
? Our democracy, or so-called democracy, is so f*** ed up that the views of people have changed, but the views of the government haven't. What does the common man do about such things? Does he have the power? If we leak information about corrupt officials tomorrow, via legal or illegal means, would that be considered morally good?
In the context of a country like India, with non-violent reformers like Mahatma Gandhi and, more recently, Anna Hazare perhaps, do you see a mass awakening with your line of action, considering there isn't one identifiable figure that the public can look to for guidance?
What we are doing is not safe if everyone starts doing it. We cover our trails. Still, there are possibilities.
But you aren't hoping to be leaders of a movement like Gandhi or Hazare?
No. We are not leaders. We want to remain Anonymous. If people want to remember something, remember Anonymous. We just want to correct what's wrong, and then we will vanish. Violence isn't what we want, but again, it's not that we won't do (sic).
You aren't opposed to a more severe attack under graver circumstances?
If things do get so wrong that to save the internet something radical needs to be done, we will do it. It's not by choice, but by compulsion.
What are you hoping to achieve with the protests on June 9? It's not an ultimatum to the government or anyone else then?
More awareness. More support for Anonymous. People will come to know about this issue, especially the ignorant fools. June 9 is the deadline for the government to unblock the sites - all of them. If they will not do it, then they will be badly hit by us. A lot of defacement of government websites will happen. Many physical protests will take place.
Do you have a final message for the people?
The government cannot control the internet. It's for us. Keep it free and open.
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