It was announced earlier today via this article on CNET that several members identified as affiliated with and “core” to the activities of the Lulzsec, Anonymous, and Antisec hacker groups have been arrested.
The Anonymous, Antisec, and Lulzsec groups are widely known as “hacktivists”, meaning that they use computers and computer networks such as the internet as a means to promote a political message. Although these groups did not coin the term “hacktivism” or start the hacktivist movement, their attacks over the past year on government and law enforcement targets as well as large payment processing companies like Paypal, Visa, and Mastercard they have certainly drawn a lot of attention to themselves. Given the arrests that were announced today one could easily argue that they managed to attract too much attention from people who had enough resources to take action.
Today’s arrests are an important step forward. At the core, the people responsible for the activities that these groups have undertaken were breaking the law. They used the internet as a weapon to disrupt the ability of commerce to take place not only for the companies who were directly attacked, but the millions of other companies who rely on the services of those who were targeted. I applaud the efforts of all who were involved in this operation as I am sure that every move that was made was done with an abundance of planning and caution.
So, does this mean that these hacker groups are effectively dismantled? Do these arrests mean that hacker groups will start backing off on their attacks for fear that they will also be uncovered and arrested? In my opinion, not at all. Groups like Anonymous are generally very loosely configured and always reaching out through outlets like social media to recruit new members into the fold. The ranks will be filled quickly by people who are willing to step into the core functions that were vacated by those who were arrested and also by many others who are looking to get involved in a hacktivist movement. I also believe that arrests only serve to further band the group together, which may result in more frequent and more damaging attacks. It will also force members of the group further into hiding such that further arrests will be more difficult to obtain.