On November 5th, social networking site Facebook was among a number of active websites threatened by the online hacking group Anonymous. Anonymous is known for being a hacktivist group which targets large corporate companies, whom they feel exploit their staff for power and money.

The group, known for wearing Guy Fawkes masks like those worn in the film V for Vendetta, chose November 5th for their takedown of big internet companies such as Facebook, PayPal and American news website NBC. They named the takedown “Operation Vendetta” and included a series of aims.

On the group web page they state their main aim was to “Recognise the internet as an independent, self-governing, self-managing entity” which is not to be controlled by these large websites, and to ensure internet users are allowed their freedom.

However, despite the threats Facebook and other websites were not targeted. Internet gaming site Zynga was threatened due to allegedly laying off staff, but also escaped the hackers. Recently Zynga laid off over 1,000 staff during the launch of the new iPad mini. Anonymous threatened to release the games on the site for free, yet this seems to have failed.

Although the group claimed to have hacked these large companies, there have been no reports of them having succeeded. The companies which were claimed to have been targeted including Paypal and Facebook all issued statements saying no threats had been detected. Anonymous tweeted that PayPal had been hacked, but the company denied this, stating that the group in fact mistakenly targeted ZPanel, a web software developer.

Although the take down of these popular sites proved to be just false threats, they did create some fear in the large companies they targeted. The businesses took the threats seriously and investigated the hackers. Some websites that were targeted included Gaga Daily, a Lady Gaga fan website, and NBC news sites.

The protests weren’t just online – protests, organised on the Anonymous website, took place in London outside the Houses of Parliament, to keep in line with Guy Fawkes Night. The protesters spoke out against censorship of the web, and 10 people were arrested.

Besides the uncertainty about the future of popular websites, no real anarchy was caused by the hacktivists and the Bonfire Night hack attacks soon appeared to have fizzled out.

Jessica Hewitt-Dean

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