Threat Management

Debate: Hacktivist group Anonymous will take a backseat to extremist groups in 2013


This month's debate covers Hacktivist group Anonymous. Will they take a backseat to more extremist groups in 2013?


Pat Calhoun, SVP of network security, McAfee

In McAfee's recent report, “2013 Threat Predictions,” we foresee the decline of hacktivist group Anonymous, to be replaced by an evolved, more extreme form of hacktivism

Thanks to numerous uncoordinated operations and false claims, Anonymous' level of technical sophistication has stagnated. As its tactics are better understood by potential victims, the group's level of success will weaken and be replaced. While hacktivist attacks won't end in 2013, if ever, we predict hacktivists will lose authority and be supplanted by more extremist factions.

To date, most hacktivist groups have inflicted political embarrassment rather than any real damage. But in 2013, this is set to change. Imagine an ideological faction with the fervor of al Qaeda, plus the technological talent of a Silicon Valley startup. Unlike traditional hacktivists, they are out to do real damage. 

The threats to our computer networks from extreme hacktivists should be regarded as real and be proactively protected to keep our critical infrastructures safe and sound.


Gabriella Coleman, Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy in the Art History and Communication Studies Department at McGill University

It may certainly be the case that Anonymous will never be able to match the astonishing blizzard of hacks it unleashed in 2011. The arrests of individual hackers may dampen this course of action for the time being. But Anonymous has never relied entirely on this sole tactic, nor furthered a single cause. And they show no signs of slowing down. In the last month, Anonymous shut down the Westboro Baptist Church website when the hate group descended in Newton, Conn., in the aftermath of the tragic school shooting. They launched a second wave of hacking protests in Uganda to rally against proposed anti-homosexuality legislation. 

Anonymous is a name used to give form to spontaneous defiance. Their presence, though steady, waxes and wanes. They are triggered foremost by world events. Given the current existence of active Anonymous Twitter accounts, internet relay chat networks, and smaller crews, and given the likely continued existence of injustices to air, Anonymous are, at least for 2013, to be expected.

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