As the New Year is rapidly approaching, it is already the New Year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the reality is that the threats of despotic, heavy handed regimes at their highest ever. And the future is not looking well for freedom — freedom of people or the internet. Fact of the matter is that the Anonymous born out of the 4Chan days is not the same Anonymous which we witness today. When I originally began covering Anonymous, I stepped in during what was termed #OpISIS. #OpISIS was, in essence, a counter cyber offensive against the Islamic State’s presence within Social Media. I wrote a Series entitled #OpISIS which caught the attention of a defense analyst over at the Council on Foreign Relations, ET Brooking. Brooking had cited me in CFR’s magazine, Foreign Policy, last year. The reality, though, is that the Anonymous born in the heyday of police brutality, digital rights management (DRM) and the Arab Spring, has begun to spiral into a free for all of trolls, rhetoric, and DDoS drive bys.
Five years ago, Anonymous was a movement with guidance. Much of the encrypted technology we benefit from today had its genesis with those whom were either directly involved with that era. That, in conjunction with the Edward Snowden revelations on the NSA, steeled the resolve of many to take an active role in combatting not simply the evil ever present in oppressive regimes, but also contributed to focused coordination to combat alleged democratic governments like the United States and the United Kingdom and their suppression and surveillance of innocent civilians.
Some of the unspoken heroes are oft times forgotten in the sweeping accolades discussing this or that new DDoS or hack of yet a new database or corporation. People like Commander X, whom we recently wrote upon and Barrett Brown who coined the most succinct statement explaining what Anonymous is, are unfortunately left out in the cold. As many are aware, Commander X recently released his new book, Behind the Mask: An Inside Look At Anonymous, and it is a great read. Foreclosurepedia ordered the book and for originating from a non mainstream publisher, it is both well constructed and a quality product for the price! It is a great, first person account of Commander X’s walk with Anonymous chronicling his eventual journey into political exile in Canada where he is currently wanted by officials in the US.
Anonymous is a process more than it is a thing. I can’t speak on behalf of Anonymous, because there’s no one who can authorize me to do that. — Barrett Brown
In fact, Anonymous has become all but a Page 24 Byline in the New York Times of the world when compared to the nearly daily reports coming out with respect to Russian and Chinese hacking of US infrastructure including now the utilities themselves. And while many may fear Anonymous in all of its scatological glory, the reality is that with our entry into an era of state sponsored cyberwarfare, Anonymous may have some competition on the internet playground. On this point, I want to be clearly understood. Anonymous, the international hacking collective, has done some good and sure, they can DDoS. Personally, I support Anonymous, both the good and the bad, and Foreclosurepedia always has. The reality, though, is that the formerly iconoclastic, ragtag band of cyber marauders are no match for say the Russian Intelligence Services (Спецслужбы России) in that Vladimir Putin would not think twice about spiriting away humans to the gulag. Can Anonymous code, hack and make a statement? Sure. Do they possess AK-47s and torture chambers to interrogate and murder people? No. And when the shit begins to hit the fan, as it inevitably already has, we are going to begin to see some very interesting alliances. There is a big difference conducting hacking operations while the power is on, instead of off, and the subway is running so you can grab a 12 pack and a pack of cigarettes. And being a gambling man, I venture the guess that Putin will not hesitate to escalate a conflict if pushed against the wall. Terms like extraordinary rendition of hackers could become the norm and not the exception in the very near future. Think I’m joking? Here is an article about the military in Thailand doing just that! There is a marked difference, a disconnect if you will, between hacking websites and taking down, for a brief time, of government and commercial systems, and well financed military operations. Ironically, the term enemy combatant, which the US Government coined to create their ghost facilities and Gitmo Camp X Ray, is a two way street and I venture the guess it will come to a town near you soon.
Christopher Doyon was a Commander in the Peoples Liberation Front (PLF), originally based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts. During his time at the PLF, Commander X was dispatched to Santa Cruz on behalf of his own Commander Adama, to exact vengeance upon the Santa Cruz Goon Squad — a.k.a. the Santa Cruz Police Department — for the death of a homeless friend of Adama’s. While in Santa Cruz, Commander X began what was to be a lifelong embracement of Anonymous. Unique to this relationship was the fact that, as I see it, Commander X became Anonymous. He was arrested in September 2011 for a cyber attack on the website of Santa Cruz County, California. Jumping bail, in February 2012, found Commander X fleeing across the US border into Canada and has continued to pursue cyber activism ever since from afar.
The doom and gloom aside, I was fortunate enough to catch up with Commander X, currently living in political exile in Canada, and ask a few questions with respect to Anonymous and the role he played with they while in the United States.
Foreclosurepedia: Project PM. So, I read and know now that Project PM was a project to stream data in and out to find correlation sets. Impressed, as I did a bunch of coding back in the day on MW on the Semantic MediaWiki. With that said, is this still an active project and if not what can people do to either help with it or stream info to it?
Commander X: Barrett Brown’s close friends and support team (including myself) began making arrangements to preserve his work, legacy – and brand within 48 hours of his arrest in 2012. ProjectPM is alive and well, and has even been a little active, although without it’s founder maybe not so much as before he was imprisoned. Website: wiki.project-pm.org Twitter: @ProjPM
Foreclosurepedia: When many folks think of Anonymous, it is almost a generic term; abstract if you will like Coke, soda, pop. You brought to light some incredible breakdowns on the Ops and such. As I see it, you were really on the forefront of the movement away from the 4chan meme bullshit into AFK operations support. Do you see Anonymous, if you will, as becoming more involved in a “think global, act local” entity? In this, I mean do you believe that Anonymous will revert back to fiefdoms or continue pressing on in a global approach thus losing the local problem focus?
Commander X: At this point that’s exactly what Anonymous is. We have cataloged organized and coherent Anonymous National Cells in half the nations on earth, over 100 cells so far and counting. No, there’s no going back. Especially in Africa and South America where Anonymous is currently the strongest. www.AnonymousGlobal.org
Foreclosurepedia: In full disclosure, I am no coder. When I began covering Anonymous, it conflicted with what I write upon — foreclosures and how the banks not only fuck the homeowner, but also those whom do the work. I stumbled upon Barrett Brown. Brown pushed me to actually start to write. With that said, I see an Anonymous statement release like the wind blowing. Is there someone / somewhere you might recommend looking to or at for bona fide Press Releases? I know you filled that roll for a period of time; however, today there isn’t a person like you or he to say, “Shit, that is bona fide?”
Commander X: The Collective itself. Just follow a shit ton of fairly established Anonymous accounts on Twitter and watch the reaction to any proposed Op or release. A good example is the Op against Trump that has VICE’s panties in a bunch. They say we just chickened out. The truth was that the Op was shot down by the consensus of the Collective in the west because Anonymous is apolitical. If the journos followed Twitter more carefully they would see that process of consensus building play out in real-time. But anyone can start an Anonymous Op, so no – there is no “official” sanction to be gleaned.
Foreclosurepedia: I wrote upon #OpISIS (it is a series on the website) and it was covered by the Council on Foreign Relations as I related in an earlier email. Hammond and yourself both concur that the proverbial cost benefit analysis (e.g.; Anonymous contributes; NATO, etc. gets free work and furthers fucked up shit; and Anonymous gets jack shit (and I had opined that one day the feds will come to hang the albatross upon Anonymous’ neck as they need a scapegoat as I told DigiShadow when he flipped to the feds)) is negative to both humanity and to Anonymous. With that said, how does Anonymous, today, pass the knowledge down to the troops in the field to assist in the dichotomy in purity of cause?
Commander X: I think every so called “OG” in Anonymous has their own approach to this. As my dear friend “Lorax” used to say: “Anonymous talks to itself via the media” – so giving interviews like this for me is important. I continue to work hard to maintain not only a Global perspective, but to continue to propagate and enhance my global network of alliances. Thus, I maintain a hands on ability to influence the Collective. And recently with the release of the book, and even before that, with my blog – I have discovered the incredible power of the “pen”. It truly is mightier than the sword, and the freedom to write and publish, online or in print – is something we must be willing to do anything to protect.
Foreclosurepedia: What ever happened to the PLF?
Commander X: When our headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. was raided as part of the huge sweep mentioned in Behind The Mask – Commander Adama and a small group of followers fled to Australia. Shortly after that, Commander Adama died of brain cancer and for all intents and purposes the Peoples Liberation Front, at least the one we created – ceased to exist. I did keep it going
myself online for a few months at most, but then I publicly shut it down and distributed the core infrastructure like the Twitter account to Anonymous activists. Truth is, the PLF had long since become absorbed into Anonymous, and so was rather redundant anyway – and also archaic.
Foreclosurepedia: Where can people go to scale up on how to be secure? You mention IRC a lot and I am familiar to a point. I mean I have Ubuntu on a stick which is greek to many. A few folks on Twitter sent me a few links, but you have been in the trenches. Where can folks go to read up and learn on how to secure, as much as is possible considering the TOR and Firefox Zero Day issue, commo et cetera?
Commander X: Since 2012 I and my crew have completely abandoned IRC for the simple reason that every single hacker convicted in the USA was done so in part with IRC logs used against him at trial. The time for openly congregating like peaceful protesters ends when you threaten to lock those peaceful protesters up for decades. So that age of open ended transparency and wide open public IRC networks in Anonymous is gone in the west and most everywhere else too. Anonymous actions are now primarily run by small crews and the planning is done in highly encrypted back channels.
As for recommendations, there’s tons. You could write a book about it, and the book would be out of date before it hit the stores. So the first step is follow a bunch of White Hat and Black Hat hackers on Twitter and try and stay current with the security trends. That said, there are a set of simple things you can do to better your Op sec position.
- Research and deploy full-disk encryption on your computers.
- Use TOR to access any account where personal data is exchanged with a server, such as E-Mail.
- Research and use PGP to encrypt your E-Mail messages.
- For Instant Messaging use Jabber WITH the OTR plugin.
- Scan your disks regularly. I recommend MalwareBytes. Make sure to click the setting to scan for root kits.
Foreclosurepedia: Where does Commander X go now and what is a hope that Commander X have for Anonymous, if any, in the coming years?
Commander X: I take my “years” one at a time. 2016 was very productive in as much as me and my crew essentially created our own Publishing House and got a book off. The ability for us to publish books by hackers and activists without the intervention of agents or huge publishing houses can not be overestimated, and we are looking to possibly expand this beyond just my work to include helping other hackers and activists get their books out. As for me personally, while I can’t divulge any details, I can say that me and my team anticipate I may bust some exciting moves in 2017, so my fans, supporters – and fellow Anons should stay tuned. My enemies however may want to invest in a valium script.
The reality is that Commander X is an iconoclastic person. I get the sense that Anonymous; Anonymous under the Commander X flavor, is going to become a far tighter Collective. This is rather difficult to explain. What I am driving at is if you take a gander on the Twitter feeds today, one becomes overwhelmed with the cacophony of opinions revolving around what is and is not Anonymous. On any given day you may see the trolls roaming around spreading hate and discontent. And some may call this the lulz while others may attribute the infighting to purist vs nøøbs. I posit that while both of these may be true, there has been a tremendous amount of infiltration by both foreign and domestic government actors. The #OpISIS movement is a classic case in point. During my interviewing of several Anonymous factions, DigitaShadow, whom ran the Ghost Security Group, had walked a murky line weaving in and out of legal, quasi legal and illegal operations. Finally, in January, 2015, he and his crew began working directly with both the US Department of State as well as with US Intelligence assets. After that and around the time his child was born, he broke off contact.
In reflecting back upon 2016, the term hacker has become mainstream. Regardless of how safe one may feel, the reality is that there is no anonymity left so long as we all utilize the internet. Irony, I suppose. And 2017 is shaping up to be the year of the state sponsored hacker. And the trading of freedom for security not only gains neither, fact of the matter is that 2017 is going to push the envelope on both counts. From a technological point of view, the United States is vastly outgunned. The days of spending billions upon a policy of MAD — Mutually Assured Destruction — are over. Cyberwarfare is king and Anonymous may be the last, best hope mankind has available. Granted, the outgoing Obama Administration finally grew a pair and imposed a few meaningless sanctions upon Putin’s hired gun hackers, the reality is that with the stroke of the keyboard, the United States and its allies could and probably will be dropped to their knees. As I type, there are reports about Russian malware, Grizzly Steppe, reported on a laptop at Burlington Electric, a Vermont utility provider.
With offensive cyber operations cranking up seven fold over the past several years, according to the Department of Homeland Security; Shamoon, Shodan, Havex and BlackEnergy are simply a few of payloads floating out in the wild, the reality is that very soon Anonymous may need to begin to focus on domestic preservation if they are going to continue to even have an internet.
In closing, Commander X has a great book out which you can purchase by simply clicking his book on the right sidebar. Foreclosurepedia does not make a penny upon the transaction, we simply support Commander X and he mission of Anonymous.