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Why Anonymous Isn't LulzSec

Illustration for article titled Why Anonymous Isnt LulzSec

LulzSec's dead. They had their streak of chaos, hacker-on-hacker pissing matches, takedowns, limelight, laughs, silly Tweets, monocled mascots and general web frenzy. But it was just that—frenzy. And at least Anonymous will carry on the mad hacker spirit, right? Nope.


LulzSec was a loose, self-contradictory blob. A mess, albeit an effective one. Despite their immaturity and nihilism, they were fantastically good at what they did.


They had a manifesto, sure. They claimed to be motivated by a desire to secure the internet, not ransack it—to show clueless companies how vulnerable they were. They also gushed that, "Watching someone's Facebook picture turn into a penis and seeing their sister's shocked response is priceless." If LulzSec had any sort of collective mind, it was a heavily schizophrenic one.

But they paired up with Anonymous, the internet's fashionable hacking establishment. The Urban Outfitters of DDoS. They then leaked a bunch of miscellaneous, unorganized data, purposelessly, and proceeded to retire. Their end was their existence in summation.


So now Anonymous stands alone, and has already shown itself to be a wildly different species, despite its claim that, "Yes, my fellows. We may not be quite as funny, but we can assure you: We sail in the same spirit. LulzSec = Anonymous. Who did NOT now? [sic]" Though they've appropriated some of the same pirate-y speak as LulzSec, they're not the same kind of comedy troupe. They haven't been prank calling and egging houses—their targets have been systematic, strategic and somewhat coherent.

It's simple: Anonymous perceives an injustice, and they try to destroy it. The governments of Tunisia (in solidarity with popular opposition), the mayor of Orlando (in solidarity with a charity group) and, perhaps most prominently, Zimbabwe ("Who actually likes Robert Mugabe?"), have all been hit with political impetus. Targets big and small, but all singled out because Anonymous thinks they deserve it, not because they want a Lulzy fireworks show. No Facebook vandalism, no YouTube jingles. They take issue with a government or institution, and they attack it for their own reasons.


Instead of tweeting a dial-in prank line a la LulzSec, Anonymous tweets out an article reinforcing their vendetta against Mugabe. You may not call it justice, but you can't call it anarchy. And perhaps more importantly, this isn't the sort of warfare that's likely to result in your passwords being leaked. They aren't out for frenzy. Just the same staid approach to hacking that's characterized Anonymous' defense of WikiLeaks since Assange went down.

The sort of thing that could be written into a manifesto sans dick jokes.

LulzSec was, and Anonymous is, fantastically skilled. But despite claims of a carried torch, there's no denying that Lulz just really didn't give much of a fuck about anything. As long as people laughed and smashed windows and retweeted, they were pleased. But Anonymous? They're too busy trying to undermine a dictator to care about pissing off the world.


You can keep up with Sam Biddle, the author of this post, on Twitter or Facebook.


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I'm not really sold on the "fantastically skilled" part of the story, for either group. Unless they are actually coming up with their own new exploits, and not merely using and re-using the old favorites (like DDOS and SQL injection), I don't think the phrase applies. Compare their techniques with, say, Stuxnet. Now there's something that qualifies as fantastic levels of skill.