Inside Anonymous’ Operation to Out Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists
The late Rehtaeh Parsons. via Facebook.
In the days following the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons—the teenage girl from Halifax who committed suicide after being gang raped, photographed, and harassed—the hacktivist group Anonymous is playing a game of chicken with the authorities in Nova Scotia. Anonymous says they have the names of four suspects, and are threatening to release that information if justice is not delivered. Those names have in fact been circulating in small online circles, but the information has been withheld from publication on Anonymous’s largest social media channels. All of this has caused a storm of negative feedback from those who view Anonymous’s actions as destructive “vigilantism” while Anonymous maintains they are only involved because “several crimes have been committed in Nova Scotia. A 17-year-old girl killed herself because the police failed to do their jobs.”
I spoke with a member of Anonymous who is directly involved with the operation to bring Rehtaeh’s rapists to justice, in order to get a better handle on their motivations.
VICE: How do you go about sourcing the information that has led to naming the four suspects?
Anonymous: The information we have gathered comes from a combination of internet research and informants. It’s a lot more like being a journalist than it is being a detective. We use advanced search techniques to comb the internet for statements, photos, videos, whatever we need. We can locate statements by suspects made years ago on accounts they may not even know still exist. We’ve also developed a level of trust with our online community and they feel comfortable speaking with us because they know we’ll protect their identities. We validate their information in the same way the police might, by cross referencing stories and doing background checks on the individuals who are providing the information. There’s also a psychological factor. It’s important to recognize the motives behind the person who is providing you the information. Some people just want to be involved so they’ll embellish their accounts or perhaps they want revenge. You can’t always count on a person’s memory either so it’s important to test them to discover if the story they are telling you has been compromised by time or their emotional state.
In this case, did your sources approach you?
Most of the sources approached us, but we tracked down quite a few of them by examining the online interactions of the victim and the suspects.
What have you learned about this case so far that you want people to know?
Only half of this case is about those four teenage boys and the alleged rape. The real guilty parties here are the adults that violated Rehtaeh. I would like to see those boys punished for what they did because I think it sets a terrible example for the other young men in Nova Scotia, but almost even more I would like to see the police and the school system pay for what they did to that girl. They had a responsibility to be there for her, to protect her, and to relieve her torment. They failed at every turn to help her. Now they’re all too busy blaming one another. The school claims they didn’t know. The police say they couldn’t find any evidence. They’re both guilty of incompetence.
We Spoke to Barret Brown from Prison
Since my initial piece on Barrett Brown about a month ago, there has been a small development in his case. Barrett, of course, is the journalist who is popularly mislabeled as a spokesperson for Anonymous and is facing a century of hard time in a federal prison for threatening an FBI officer, hiding evidence that obstructed his warrant, and sharing a link within an IRC chat room that contained the stolen credit card information of Stratfor customers (a security company that had 5 million of its internal emails stolen from them). While Barrett is still sitting in a federal prison waiting to see a judge, news broke last night that Barrett Brown’s mother pled guiltyto her own charge of obstructing a search warrant. She hid Barrett’s computers from the FBI and is now facing $100,000 in fines and six months of probation.
In addition, Jeremy Hammond, the hacker who is accused of actually hacking into Stratfor has been sitting in prison for 13 months without trial. His case was further delayed when it was discovered that the original judge who was appointed to try Jeremy is the wife of a man whose data was compromised by the Stratfor hack.
A couple of weeks ago, Barrett Brown called me from prison to talk to me about his case. We discussed the winding intricacies of his story in two 15-minute bursts, which was all the time the restrictions of his imprisonment would allow.
VICE: A lot of people say that you’re the spokesperson for Anonymous. What do you say to that?
Barrett Brown: I’m not. For two years now, I’ve denied that publicly. Every time I’m asked, it turns out that I’m not. The first thing people find when they google me should be a D Magazine article in which I explained that. No one is the spokesperson for Anonymous. It doesn’t work that way. I wouldn’t want that position if it were a position.
I don’t necessarily agree with everything Anonymous does. I don’t necessarily like a lot of Anons. I was very supportive of the dynamics that Anonymous represents. I’m very much an advocate (and continue to be) of these new sorts of communities to express yourself on the internet and the next move I’ll be making is deploying some communities—a little more structured than Anons’—to perpetuate themselves, and grow, while maintaining Anonymous’s core qualities. I’ve identified with Anonymous very closely for two years now, but one of the interesting things to me is how all the articles refer to me as the self-proclaimed spokesperson for Anonymous. They all copy off each other.
You did also call yourself Cobra Commander at one point.
Oh yeah, I called myself that after the NBC Nightly news called me the “underground commander in a new warfare.” Which is just a ridiculous thing to be called.
Yes, it sure is. What do you think of your 100-year sentence?
I’ve known for a long time that I was going to be incarcerated. There are several documentaries where I say that I’m going to jail at some point. You just can’t do these things and not fall on the radar of the FBI without retaliation or reprisal. I don’t want to talk to you about the case or the people involved at this point, but obviously I’m not terribly worried about it.
Why aren’t you worried?
Just because of my knowledge, I know how long they were in there monitoring our stuff… I know what documents and records of my activities are available. They’re trying to claim that I intentionally tried to spread credit card information, but I was opposed to that. And I was on record being opposed to it. They’re just not aware of that.
They don’t have their shit together in terms of going through what they spied on me regarding… and I obviously know what’s there in that evidence, so… I’ve always been opposed to spreading credit cards.
Anonymous Hacked Bank of America and Seemingly Revealed That the Bank’s Spying on Hacktivists
You’ve probably already heard of Anonymous, the world’s most infamous group of cybertrolling hacktivists. They frequently make headlines for crashing websites and looting corporate and government servers. Usually these hacktivists come together in defense of others, such as Julian Assange, the people of Gaza, victims of police brutality, or even victims of rape. But now, Anonymous has turned its eyes on a personal rival. This enemy has its own cybersquad of secret spies who, according to Anonymous, spend the majority of their time in chat rooms collecting intelligence about them. With this latest release of stolen data, Anonymous has just pulled back the curtain on their foe: the Bank of America.
On February 25 @AnonymousIRC, an Anonymous Twitter account with over 280,000 followers, began posting “teasers” about a massive Bank of America data leak. The first post declared, “If you spy on us, we spy on you.” What followed was 14 gigabytes of private emails, spreadsheets, and a “text analysis and data mining” program called OneCalais. The emails in the release originated from “Cyber Threat Intelligence Analysts” who identified themselves as employees of a company called TEKsystems. The TEKsystems website appears to be nothing more than a staffing agency and seems wholesome enough. There’s definitely nothing that screams “we are cyberspies!” It’s safe to assume these analysts were hired by Bank of America, regardless of their TEKsystems titles, because according to the leaked emails that Anonymous released, each of them were using @bankofamerica.com email addresses while filing their reports.
Having a team on staff to protect a corporation from potential cyberthreats is nothing new. This isn’t what caught the attention of Anonymous to begin with; it was the methods being employed by Bank of America to gather data. Each of the 500 plus emails pilfered reads like a surveillance report, most of them reporting on the activities of online activists from Anonymous to Occupy Wall Street.
Will Anonymous Retaliate for Christopher Dorner’s Death?
Yesterday, a man who wasprobably Christopher Dorner barricaded himself in a remote cabin near Big Bear Lake, California, after shooting two police officers and killing one, before the cabin burned to the ground. Throughout the media’s coverage of this final showdown between the LAPD and the man believed to be Dorner, the hacktivist group Anonymous was stirring a pot of skepticism to an audience of more than 883,000 Twitter followers on their @YourAnonNews account, a following that is more than half of the Associated Press’s primary Twitter account.
It is not surprising that Anonymous would come to the defense of Christopher Dorner. For one, anyone who has read Christopher’s manifesto will know that his rage appears to stem from the way he was allegedly treated during his time in the LAPD. He describes racist harassment from fellow cops, and writes about his firing from the force after he made a complaint that an officer kicked a homeless man, a complaint that a judge dismissed. He also accused another officer of jumping onto a 70-year-old woman and twisting the “thin elastic skin” of her arm, saying that that same officer found humor in “draw[ing] blood from suspects and arrestees.”
In his manifesto, Dorner insists that he has, “exhausted all available means at obtaining my name back. This is my last resort… The LAPD has suppressed the truth and it has now lead [sic] to deadly consequences.”
Anonymous has always come to the defense of whistleblowers like Bradley Manning, who allegedly leaked information from the military to Wikleaks; Aaron Swartz, the co-founder of Reddit who leaked academic documents and may also have contributed to Wikileaks; and Barett Brown, who is facing 100 years in prison and did detailed research into the inner workings of American security firms. But of course, a murderous ex-cop is a lot harder to defend than these nonviolent liberators of information.
Why Is Barrett Brown Facing 100 Years in Prison?
It was announced on Wednesday morning that Barrett Brown, a man who became a very public talking head for AnonOps (the brain trust that is arguably the cortex of the hacktivist group Anonymous, even though theretechnically isn’t one) is facing up to 100 years in jail for three separate indictments. The most recent two indictments—the threatening of an FBI officer in a YouTube video and the concealing of evidence—do not seem worthy of such a harsh sentence, considering a man in Houston recieved only 42 months for threatening to blow up an FBI building, and a former dentist got 18 months for threatening to kill an FBI agent. The third, however, pertains to Barrett Brown’s pasting of a link in an Anonymous IRC chat room to a document full of credit card numbers and their authentication codes that was stolen from the security company Stratfor, in the midst of a hack that released over five million internal emails. Those emails were published to Wikileaks. Some writers have rightfully raised their concerns about the legalities behind sharing a link that points to stolen material (which is why I have not linked to those five million emails) and whether or not that should be an indictable offense. However, Barrett’s work and research into Stratfor tells a much more complicated and disturbing story than a pile of stolen Visa cards.
Remember that time I interviewed revenge-porn king and self-styled “most hated man on the internet,” Hunter Moore? Well, karma might be coming around to bite him in the ass pretty soon. A couple of days agoAnonymous announced they were launching an operation named #OpHuntHunter against the founder of IsAnyoneUp.com, which, if you’re unfamiliar with its modus operandi, was a website where sad men could post revealing images sent to them by women who they felt had scorned them.
Recently, Hunter conducted an interview with Betabeat, in which he claimed that he was launching a new website, one that would not only feature stolen nudes of people but also their home addresses. He later backtracked on this, claiming it was a “semi-lie” he’d told because he’d been “drunk” and “coked out” when he did the interview. Speaking to the Huffington Post yesterday, he confirmed that he only planned to publish the addresses of people who had personally wronged him.
It’s in retaliation to these comments that a branch of Anonymous have struck, publishing detailed personal information about Moore on PasteBin. The thing is, he doesn’t really give a shit, and responded to the threat by provoking Anonymous to attack his websites in a series of tweets. Which must seem like a clever thing to do when you’re “coked out”, too.
With bravado on both sides of the battle heating up, who will come out on top? I spoke to the Anon leading the hunt for Hunter Moore to try to find out what the plan is.
VICE: Hi Kyanonymous, how much support do you have from the Anon community for the operation to fuck over Hunter Moore?
Kyanonymous: We are gathering support as we speak, it’s ever-growing. Anonymous is a collective of individuals with differing views, so some support Hunter Moore’s enterprise, some don’t – but most don’t, and majority wins.
I see. So, you’ve had to spend some time proposing this operation to the community to get that support?
No, Anonymous works like this: If you value freedom from oppression, and are willing to fight for it, and do it all in anonymity, then you are Anonymous. Me and @jackherer20 came up with the video, and the d0x file compiling all of Hunter’s personal info in one easy-to-use form, and it just took off.
So what’s the plan? DDOS his sites? Or maybe hack him?
We can’t discuss the details of the plan, that would be like walking through a herd of zombies screaming “Food!” I’m sure you can respect that.
I guess. Could you give away any time scales? When should Hunter expect things to kick off?
That’s the beauty of it, Mr. Moore can expect things always, there are moles in his team and until his revenge-porn sites and other imitation sites like his cease to exist, this will be an ongoing operation.
The Gaza Strip Cyberwar
As military strikes between Israel and Gaza continued with the deaths of 11 Palestinian civilians on Sunday, a complicated internet battlefront has appeared. A virtual info-war is just beginning, and it exists on multiple fronts. There is an unprecedentedly transparent wave of social media propaganda by both sides, a fairly predictable backlash of Israeli website defacement from Anonymous, and an effort to bring open internet access for civilians affected by the strikes from a group called Telecomix.
On Wednesday, the IDF released an infographic-filled video describing the methods the IDF uses (phone calls and precision strikes) to minimize civilian casualties. The IDF is also live-tweeting the strikes on Gaza using their shiny new Twitter account, @IDFSpokesperson. The Twitter feed for Al Qassam, the military branch of Hamas, has responded by tweeting numerous photos of dead children killed by Israeli strikes. These photos are a very effective and graphic response to the monochromatic circles Israel is using in their videos to say they’re not killing anyone who doesn’t deserve it.
Besides this public social media conflict between governments—which is shockingly savvy and direct—the hacker group Anonymous is also taking action through a campaign they’re calling #OpIsrael. According to Anonymous, Israel threatened to cut out electricity and the internet in Gaza, though that has not been confirmed by any news source. Anonymous responded to this supposed threat, and to the bombings in Gaza, with one of their trademark public service announcements on YouTube. The resulting offensive from Anonymous led to the temporary shutdowns and defacements of hundreds of Israeli websites, including the Bank of Jerusalem.
I was greeted with this defacement page on a website for the Israeli Tourism Board yesterday.
While most sources are claiming the number of Israeli websites taken down is between 663 and 700, Israel’s Finance Minister has said that the government has “deflected 44 million cyber attacks on government websites” and called this wave of attacks a “second front” in this conflict. Besides website defacements and takedowns, Anonymous leaked a document containing thousands of email addresses and passwords supposedly belonging to IDF operatives and Israeli government officials. Attached to the leaked document, the Anonymous leaker added: “this is/will turn into a cyber war.”
Anonymous has also been distributing a “care package” to the citizens of Gaza. The package, named “OpIsrael.Care.Package.v2.0” contains a press release, first aid instructions in English and Arabic, a technical guide with information on how to circumvent authoritarian internet shut-downs (like the one in Egypt during their Arab Spring), a proxy that can be used to hide the IP address and location of your computer, as well as a small image file of the Anonymous crest.
After running the documents through Google Translate, it’s clear that the information inside of the care package is designed to help civilians get online and spread information in the event of an Internet shutdown. The documents describe how to activate Twitter via text messaging in case the internet is inactive, advises people to use fax machines, make their own WiFi antennas out of spare aluminum, and to print out their email contacts in case they lose access to their virtual address book. It also encourages people to use the Telecomix dial-up network.
ANONYMOUS TRACKED DOWN THE JAILBAIT LOVING PERV WHO DESTROYED AMANDA TODD’S LIFE
In September of this year, a 15-year-old girl named Amanda Todd from British Columbia posted a video onto Youtube in which she detailed a terribly fucked up story with Bob Dylan-esque cue cards, of how one internet pedophile had deliberately destroyed her happiness. You can get all of the painful details from the video, but basically she flashed a strange guy while she was in the seventh grade over webcam. That image got into the hands of a pedophile who tracked her through high school, then leaked the images to her friends and family, while continuing to stalk her online and heavily disrupt her life. Some of the Canadian mainstream media have described it as “bullying… through online social media” but clearly this pattern of controlling and destructive behavior is more than just a case of “no one likes you” wall posts and “you’re fat” instant messages.
In light of the recent exposure of Reddit’s most notorious jailbait administrating troll by Gawker, and the news of Hunter Moore’s disgusting little empire embarking on a new online endeavor, it seems like all eyes are uncomfortably on the jailbait exploitation community on the internet. While jailbait certainly has a more palatable ring to it than child porn, it has clearly become a very insidious force on the internet that is pitting overly clever pedophiles against insecure teenagers.
Unfortunately the Amanda Todd story gets worse, as her exploitation did not end at death. After autopsy photos of Amanda, naked and deceased, leaked onto the internet, the hacktivist group Anonymous responded. Anonymous claimed that a teenager named Alex Ramos distributed the photos, and proceeded to bomb his Twitter account. In what was publicly available on Alex’s Twitter timeline yesterday night, he insisted that what he found was simply available over Google Images. The biography of his Twitter account has now been hacked to say “Raging faggot that loves posting nudes of a dead suicide victim.”
Once again, a major BitTorrent portal has disappeared from the internet into a poof of misdirection and contradictory reporting. Currently, The Pirate Bay is unreachable and, like we have seen before, TorrentFreak is the only media outlet with allegedly official information. They’re saying that Pirate Bay isdown “due to power failure.”
In August, I reported on the Demonoid shutdown. Torrentfreak ran a story that said Demonoid’s servers, which were hosted by a company named Colocall, were shut down by the Ukranians as a “gift to the United States government.” They wrote that the Ukrainian “government investigators arrived at ColoCall to shut Demonoid down” which they sourced from a Ukrainian newspaper. A few days later, after I emailed Colocall personally, Colocall told me “the decision to terminate the contract with Demonoid has been made without participation of the Ministry, because they caused too much trouble for a single customer. This is our own decision.”
Even though we ran an article that said Torrentfreak was “full of shit,” I’m not saying that they’re totally wrong in reporting The Great Pirate Bay Power Failure of 2012. I am, however, very skeptical. Especially given that on their front page they are also running a story about Gottfrid Svartholm, a TPB founder, being“locked up without charges.” Gottfrid, pictured above on the left, was arrested in Cambodia and returned to Sweden last month after dodging a warrant. Besides evading his one year sentence in Sweden for running Pirate Bay, he allegedly hacked into a consulting firm called Logica. He’s currently sitting in a Swedish jail and his detention period was extended yesterday, the same day as the power failure.
Besides the supposed power failure, and Gottfrid being extracted from Cambodia, there’s a third event that is also supposedly unconnected to the site being down. It regards the TPB’s hosting company: PRQ. PRQ not only hosts Pirate Bay, the company was also founded by the creators of TPB. PRQ has also caught some serious heat for hosting NAMBLA’s website. But, more importantly, PRQ is one of Wikileaks’ hosting providers as well. As of right now, the Wikileaks website is still accessible.
Hey, you know what’s a big re-emerging trend in Europe at the moment, besides the Cosby sweater and poverty? Fascism! I mean, it’s only the middle of July and so far we’ve seen nationalists playing football with anarchists’ heads in Poland, slapping women on Greek TV and crashing May Day and Gay Pride parties in Sweden and Bristol respectively.
The hacking/general mischief collective Anonymous is pretty ahead of the curve when it comes to scary fashions. Completely unfazed by the hotness of fascist women, a few months ago the group declared war against the many Nazi-loving websites that have begun to flood the internet, with something they calledOperation Blitzkrieg and later with a website dedicated to leaking fascists’ personal data called Nazileaks.
Finally, do you know who is very good friends with Anonymous? Alec Empire, of Atari Teenage Riot fame. And so, he interviewed one of the members of Anonymous involved in Nazileaks for us.
Take it away, Alec.