Stop the world - Anonymous to kill Facebook on 05 Nov 2011!

Filed Under: Facebook, Featured, Law & order, Privacy, Social networks

The self-proclaimed ethereal hacktivist collective known as Anonymous - or, more accurately, someone with a computer, an internet connection, a basic video editor and a voice synthesiser - has decided that Facebook should die.

In a YouTube video posted under the Anonymous banner and entitled Message from Anonymous: Operation Facebook, Nov 5 2011, a disembodied voice lets loose a burst of oratory which would do any repressive dictator in any book-burning tyranny proud:

If you are a willing hacktivist or a guy who just wants to protect the freedom of information then join the cause and kill Facebook for the sake of your own privacy.

The voice continues, warning you that:

Facebook knows more about you than your family.

For some Facebook users, that might well be true. But that's not exactly Facebook's fault. And it's not inevitably the chilling thing the inhumanly-voiced commentator implies.

Firstly, Facebook only "knows" what you choose to tell it. If you want to tell Facebook more than you tell your parents, or your spouse, or your third cousin twice removed, then that should be your choice. And it should be your right. At least, your choice and right in any jurisdiction in which there is at least some personal freedom.

Secondly, what about the many people who have no or little family? If you're an orphan, for example, or if you're estranged from your family, does that disqualify you from using social networks because you don't have a family who could possibly know more about you than your chosen friends?

Thirdly, what about the many lonely, disaffected or socially unadept people whose lives have been transformed for the better by services like Facebook? You can disagree with Facebook's approach, and its underlying attitudes - as Naked Security sometimes pointedly does - but to aim to kill it off entirely to suit your own agenda is arrogant self-righteouness at best.

Interestingly, the synthetic voice has what might best be described as a Western Mid Atlantic Ocean accent - a mostly North American inflection but with a nod to UK Received Pronunciation.

There's further evidence of Anglophilia in the date chosen.

05 November 1605 was the date Guy Fawkes was arrested in a cellar under the British parliament, in the company of a vast stash of gunpowder, a timepiece, an implement for lighting the fuse, and the intention to cause murder and mayhem on an enormous scale.

So there you have it.

The future of the internet, as envisaged by someone claiming to be an Anonymous hacktivist, is to be determined under the motto: "We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us."

What we are offered here is the concept of an internet regulated - and regulation is exactly what this latest crazy threat really amounts to - by a group that is apparently proudly named after a horde of pyschotic demons in the Christian Bible; has adopted the terminology of murder in its proposal; and eschews both forgiveness and forgetting altogether.

The inability to forgive or forget seems chillingly close to one of the criticisms levelled against Facebook in the call-to-arms video, namely that Facebook doesn't "forget", since it's impossible - according to the video - to delete your information from Facebook.

(It certainly is difficult to delete stuff from Facebook, and almost impossible to purge stuff from The Cloud in general. But the video's implication that Facebook deliberately keeps your data even when it actually claims to have removed it permanently is, in my opinion, both unfounded and unlikely.)

Apparently, then, it's morally wrong for Facebook to be "unforgetting", whilst for Anonymous, it is a badge of honour.

Worse still, can you imagine what law enforcement would look like in a neither-forgive-nor-forget dystopia? There could be no parole. No spent convictions. (That's when an entry is removed from your criminal record so it becomes as though you never even went to court at all.) No more right to have your previous convictions withheld from the jury empanelled to judge you. No presumption of innocence after your first brush with the courts.

There wouldn't be any room for mercy, so there wouldn't be much point in remorse. One strike, and you'd be out.

Of course, in the Legion story as told in the Bible, the psychotic demons quickly end up drowned in the Sea of Galilee by their own uncontrolled and unfocused rage.

And even if you reject entirely any religious or spiritual significance in the story, and read it in a strictly sociopolitical light, you'll struggle to interpret Jesus as the embodiment of Roman oppression and Legion as freedom fighters crushed by orders of The Government.

You'd definitely cast Legion as the bad guys, wouldn't you say?


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If you're a Facebook user who doesn't plan on helping to kill the service, but who simply wants security tips and advice on the latest threats, why not join our lively community - 118,000-strong and growing - on the Sophos Facebook page?

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46 Responses to Stop the world - Anonymous to kill Facebook on 05 Nov 2011!

  1. K.j. Catlover · 1086 days ago

    This is beyond stupid. Can you imagine how many animals will die because they don't get the help and coverage that millions of animal lovesr. rescuers and activists normally see and help because of Facebook? It would be mass murder at best because so many would die because of some elitest opinionated twat decides Facebook is bad m'kay. Grow up - you want to do something how about working to get animal abusers or criminals and pedos who use this instead? Get rid of snuff vids or crush vids - do something more useful with your time and abilities than taking away a much needed resource that has the ability to save so many and not just animals. Suicides get help here, those with mental illnesses get help and support.on Facebook? Did you EVER consider ANY of that? I doubt it. Seriously if I had this option of hacking and killing something on the internet it would be sites that promote animal abuse and child abuse and porn etc. Pick a better target.

  2. Patti Wicksteed · 1086 days ago

    What a delight to read your posts. Anyone who can use the word eschew correctly fills me with unfeigned joy. Thank you for the warning - I would agree with you that anyone seeing November 5th as a significant date has Anglo roots. I think the origin of the 'festival' is lost in America under Thanksgiving... in much the same way as the origin of Hallowe'en has gone.
    I actually look forward to your posts appearing on my feed as they are invariably interesting - and well written, which art is slowly being lost in the technobabble age.
    Thank you again.

    • Paul Ducklin · 1086 days ago

      Why, thank you, Ma'am!

      Your use of the word "invariably" - which I don't doubt you have used strictly correctly, not in its wishy-washy sense of "fairly often" - is especially heartening :-)

      • Dan · 1085 days ago

        I thought it meant 'on every occasion' or 'always', never heard of 'fairly often', interesting. But she is right, your articles do stoke, sorry Dame Agatha, 'the little gray cells'.

  3. As I suspected would happen and would happen in any "organisation" without oversight or a controlling hierarchy, the nutbags would quickly take over.
    The problem also with this is that you yourself say it's most likely...
    "someone with a computer, an internet connection, a basic video editor and a voice synthesiser" then why give this whackjob some legitimacy by posting in an authoritative professional blog?
    What's to stop anyone threatening anything and just adding "Anonymous" to get themselves some free publicity?

    • Paul Ducklin · 1086 days ago

      I did - and I always do - think quite a while before posting about stuff like this.

      But Anonymous-plus-acolytes get enough positive coverage anyway, with a great many "hangers-on" explicitly or implicitly approving of the entire "Anonymous brand".

      So I intended this article as a counterpoint to the often-seen propganda that whilst the "Anonymous way" - its motto and its motives - might be a little too aggressive for some people, it is nevertheless unarguably rooted in some kind of social legitimacy and undeniably represents a more noble future for the internet that what we have right now.

      I think those presumptions are both arguable and deniable.

      • Anonymous · 1085 days ago

        "I think those presumptions are both arguable and deniable. "

        Do you really mean to say both sides have a point, or are you misusing "arguable" here?

  4. Unknown · 1086 days ago

    oh noes the script kiddies are angry at facebook for disrupting the freedom of information by people using it as a platform to share info with the world? eh what?

    Whatever drugs these guys are on please give me a hit as it must be really good stuff.

  5. kamen-soseji · 1086 days ago

    Mmmh are you the new intern or what ?

    The motto of Anonymous is very old, it was just another dashing way of signing their mishaps, like "Anonymous: Because None of Us Are As Cruel As All of Us" or the plethora of others existing good sounding bullshit.

    Also, they took a big part of their folklore from the movie V for Vendetta, the mask, the concept of crowd sourcing the attacks, the insurrection against the power, so it's no news they had chosen this date for the possible attack.

    So, most of this post is irrelevant, or old news. Other people are studying the idea of Anonymous, and better than you are doing.

    However, for the attack against facebook, we can see the pattern of Anon attacks : there is fondamentaly something wrong with the way facebook is doing business, and they try to raise awareness by causing mayhem. It will not work, they don't have the power to do significant damages, but at least they are trying. I have better hope in government like in germany to debate wisely of all the new issues raised by FB

    • Paul Ducklin · 1086 days ago

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Incidentally, I wasn't trying to study the _idea_ of Anonymous, but merely to give a slightly different viewpoint from the utopian view that "Anonymous may be naughty little boys but their hearts are in the right place so power to them."

  6. Very Tricky · 1086 days ago

    disrupting company's, governments is one thing, disrupting millions of lives who have done nothing to them is wrong,, i hope facebook traps their ip's and releases them to us, so anom will have millions hunting them... don't bite off more than you can chew trick,,, not wise.

  7. TonyJ · 1086 days ago

    So am I the first person to question who this one person is? I seriously doubt it is Anonymous, it does not sound like an Anonymous communication, target or reason for targeting an individual / company from other blogs I have seen. Maybe Paul can let us know where this was posted? Anons twitter or youtube?

    • Paul Ducklin · 1086 days ago

      I amended the article (on Graham Cluley's suggestion :-) to clarify where this correspondence came from. Then I forget to click [Update]. I have now done so. Hope that helps :-)

      As for "doubting it's Anonymous", isn't that the whole idea? Since Anon wants to be an amorphous organisation of faceless individuals, why can't this person - or anyone else - be Anonymous if they want?

      All you have to do is say you're it, and...you're it.

      • TonyJ · 1086 days ago

        Thanks Paul, it was the lack of source information that had me doubting.

        • TonyJ · 1084 days ago

          Well looks like my spider sense was correct. From TheReg @ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/08/11/anonymous...

          In other hacktivism news, senior figures in Anonymous and LulzSec have distanced them from supposed plans to launch an attack on Facebook to coincide with the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November. "Thank you to my brothers at @anonops and @anonyOpsIndo for exposing the fact that #opFacebook is bullshit and does not exist," senior activist Sabu said via Twitter.

  8. Peta Bridges · 1086 days ago

    Beyond pathetic. Another loser with nothing better to do. Someone too far up his own ego to put his skills to a positive use. I wish him as much luck at holding back the tide as King Canute had.

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      To be fair to the much-maligned King Cnut, he knew perfectly well that he couldn't order the tide back, and wasn't hoping to do so. Instead, he used his inability to regulate the tide - despite ordering it to obey him - to show his royal court that even a King could not control everything.

  9. Anonymous · 1086 days ago

    Lol, you all just got trolled.

  10. RVK55 · 1086 days ago

    Anonymous should consider their members who were caught by the FBI are probably working for the FBI by now, which may put anyone who tries to be Anonymous at risk of being caught, as they should be.
    Power is in the people's hands but not by hacking, making the internet eventually worthless. Then Anonymous little plaything will no longer be!
    What will they hack on Nov. 5th if everyone scrambles e mail passwords and stops playing games for a week? Perhaps the loss of income from games not being played will force Facebook to get serious about security!
    Perhaps Anonymous members should start a news security company like many past brilliant hackers. Then with the money you make perhaps you can lobby for change.

  11. Confucione · 1086 days ago

    A lot of good & honest people enjoy FB. Bugger off and leave it alone!

  12. Jane · 1086 days ago

    Are they trying to put down the Middle East revs?
    What about the slaughter in Syria and Yemen that is shared by facebook only?
    They should wait until the Middle East gets some privacy rights and other civil rights via revolutions organized on facebook before thinking about taking away the important tool.

    • theopeneye · 1084 days ago

      Syria blocked Facebook, you dumbnut. And Facebook gives any information they have to any regime, humane or not. If you think Facebook is the only network website that's used in this world you probably have never stepped a foot outside of your own house. Facebook is not an important tool and could be replaced easy by something waaaay better, if only stupid people like the one writing this article and most of those who commented realize how it really is these days and in what kind of world we live in. But you don't, you by into sweet lies. You have been fed lies, you have been digesting lies and now you are shitting lies.

  13. S. Samperi · 1086 days ago

    If this results in my personal data being erased from the Facebook's servers I'll be very, very happy

  14. SD8 · 1085 days ago

    This is madness! I'LL KILL THAT STUPID HACKER BEFORE HE DOES ANYTHING TO FACEBOOK! I say now is the time for facebook to open their eyes and get tough on security, so when nov 5th comes that hack wont do a single thing! but it's their fight, not ours, but i'll still beat up that hacker if he kills FB.

  15. ananal · 1085 days ago

    Anonymous are not social pioneers, they are hiders in the dark, afraid of being taken to task for their harmful, hateful actions against others. Who the hell wants that for a social strata? Like a bully in school hiding in a closet screeching about what you will do to them because of what they've done, they leap out and mug innocents. There is a rule of law and "anonymous" (Joe Schmoe) comes under it. Write a letter to the editor, try participating in democracy, stupid(s). This isn't the gangs of new york.

  16. I am both astounded and impressed you managed to start an article about Facebook and hacktivism and end it with references to Jesus and the bible.

    Thanks,
    Anonymous (in the sense that anyone can be anonymous) :-)

    • theopeneye · 1084 days ago

      You're never anonymous btw, whoever owns naked security / sophos now has both our ip adresses with our opinions.

  17. Steve Stumpff · 1085 days ago

    I find your dissection of obviously sensational metaphors to be very telling. Such a surgical attack on the melodrama rather than the substance suggests a deeper bias.

    Think about it.

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      I've thought about it...

      Still not sure what my "deeper bias" is, except perhaps that I'm not willing to excuse Anonymous's publicly-claimed rallying cry as "melodrama".

  18. Adrienne Boswell · 1085 days ago

    OMG! It's Google trying to kill Facebook! Seriously, who ever it or they are, this is a very serious matter. If any of you have read Tom Clancy's Debt of Honor, you might remember the story of a disgruntled programmer who leaves a logic bomb in the US stock trading system, which creates a stock market crash just as the US is being attacked by military forces. That's just a novel, but, in the real world the implications could be far worse.

    • theopeneye · 1084 days ago

      You believe a computer can be derailed by a logic bomb? Do you live in the 70ties still?

  19. While most of this topic has been covered fairly thoroughly, you do make one statement that's not quite true, Paul.

    "Firstly, Facebook only 'knows' what you choose to tell it. "

    In reality, Facebook only "knows" what its members choose to tell it. I have no account on FB, and yet it would be relatively easy to find out a great deal about me by mining its databases, as enough people tend to mention me, post photos including me, etc. that I do have a virtual identity on Facebook via my real social network even though I have no account.

    However, all this publicity grab is going to do is make the public dislike Anonymous a little bit more. Of course, as anyone can be Anonymous, there's even the possibility that this was the entire idea ;)

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      Good point - especially in light of the fact that one of the links I chose for the article was to a piece of my own, written last year, entitled "Automatic photo tagging: Facebook friendships get creepier". That's where I lamented some of the potential risks of exactly what you mention - you becoming "known" through the efforts of your friends, not of yourself :-)

  20. Anonymous · 1085 days ago

    I don't understand why is Sophos trying to defend Facebook when you constantly attack their lack of privacy.

    Double Standards !!!

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      I think you will find the answer to your concern in the article: "You can disagree with Facebook's approach, and its underlying attitudes - as Naked Security sometimes pointedly does - but to aim to kill it off entirely to suit your own agenda is arrogant self-righteouness at best."

      You can be strongly against something - perhaps even unremittingly against it - and yet set your path to change it rather than to destroy it.

      The problem with destroying something is that you need to replace it with something better. And my opinion is that the stated attitude of Anonymous reeks of a Soviet-style internet dystopia, and that the so-far-seen activities of Anonymous show no sign of an ability to build anything, only to breach and to break.

  21. biobunny · 1085 days ago

    I looked at the anonymousIRC on twitter and there's nothing related to this. This is not anonymous. If this was anonymous then they would threaten Facebook to give more privacy to the users, or tell the world to boycot Facebook. And I doubt Anonymous would attack facebook. People stop freaking out as not all hackers are bad, it's just a stereotype, and there's more to the word hacking then hacking the US government, etc. Sophos, please state that this "anonymous" group does not sound like anonymous, and definetly isn't anonymous. I'm not defending anonymous, I'm just stating that I doubt it's them.

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      This Anonymous group sounds as much like Anonymous as anyone.

      As for "the other Anonymous" being the sort of group which wouldn't attack Facebook but merely tell the world to boycott it...tell that to the victims of their many breaches, data disclosures and orchestrated DDoS attacks :-)

      "It wasn't really a DDoS. It was just an unofficial statement calling for a boycott."

  22. MF1 · 1085 days ago

    The point behind this 'planned attack' whether it actually is Anonymous or not is that Facebook is secretly sharing user data with governments and authorities -without the users' knowledge. The question here is: Is that true?

    • Paul Ducklin · 1085 days ago

      Wow. Hard to say, but plenty of room for conspiracy theories :-)

      Actually, I've heard a number of people complain the other way around - that FB doesn't seem to be helpful enough to law enforcement when it comes to things such as on-line stalking, sexting and the like. (Our own Graham Cluley once struggled to get FB to remove a page created by an impostor which led to him receiving death threats...free speech, and all that...but when he had the bright idea of reporting the image used by the imposter as a copyright infringement, the impostor's content was gone in moments :-)

      However it seems there is legislation in the USA - the PATRIOT Act - which can compel service providers to turn over information about certain users _and which also prohibits the service provider from notifying the users_.

      So, my experience has been that many US service providers are pretty gung ho about refusing access to their data unless the law has dotted its Is and crossed its Ts, even when you might think a bit of voluntary co-operation would be in order. But when the law requires it, they will comply...because that's the law. And you might never know, because that's the law.

  23. Guy · 1082 days ago

    Let me guess... You all have Facebook accounts don't you?

  24. Anonymous · 1075 days ago

    You can not join Anonymous. Nobody can join Anonymous.
    Anonymous is not an organization. It is not a club, a party or even a movement. There is no charter, no manifest, no membership fees. Anonymous has no leaders, no gurus, no ideologists. In fact, it does not even have a fixed ideology. All we are is people who travel a short distance together - much like commuters who meet in a bus or tram: For a brief period of time we have the same route, share a common goal, purpose or dislike. And on this journey together, we may well change the world. Anonymous isn't just one person, so it's gonna be hard to take them down. Just hope they don't go along with Operation: Facebook as Facebook is a way they submit their messages, so it'd be pretty stupid.

  25. ProtoAnon · 1074 days ago

    I'd love to see it go down and stay down.

  26. The Balance · 1070 days ago

    The true anonymous doesn't attack the users these guys are indeed self righteous and arrogant. how dare they sully the name of anonymous.

    Dear Paul
    i believe its safe to say that you are taking the meaning of the word Legion and the guy fawkes masks out of context. Legion's biblical importance and The History of Guy Fawkes has no relevence to the meanings they are given now. Permenantly attaching a single meaning to a concept, i think shows that one is merely closeminded, especially when its used to support an ideal. One must be aware of all interpretations for the words ones uses in debate......or in this case rant.

  27. roy jones jr · 1053 days ago

    If it does go down, then where will folks go? 4chan? not likely.

  28. Ann Ominus · 1073 days ago

    The Intelligence Community is big on Open Sources of intelligence. That's exactly why DHS & NSA encourage a public / private partnership in gathering information from the "cloud". fB@@K with its hundreds of millions of global users is an incredible savory sea of information for those that are into that sort of thing. Google+ is trying to structure itself as a conscientious archivist but both rely on advertising for their revenues. The majority of info gathering is done for money not terrorisim.
    As Andrew Ludgate commented in most cases people willing contribute the info that permeates the "cloud".
    As in real life so in Internet life each individual is responsible for the impressions they create.

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About the author

Paul Ducklin is a passionate security proselytiser. (That's like an evangelist, but more so!) He lives and breathes computer security, and would be happy for you to do so, too. Paul won the inaugural AusCERT Director's Award for Individual Excellence in Computer Security in 2009. Follow him on Twitter: @duckblog