20 September 2014

On February 5, NBC published new documents leaked by Edward Snowden that reveal direct cyber attacks on the infrastructure of the hacktivist group Anonymous. The heavily redacted documents also gave insight to research already underway by the Free Press into a campaign of disinformation and harassment of the same group by private intelligence companies that received start up capital from the CIA. Both campaigns seemed to indiscriminately target members of the group engaged in lawful dissent and social welfare activities.


NBC released a story, written in part by Glenn Greenwald, that detailed for the first time the existence and activities of the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), which is an offensive arm of the Government Communications Security Headquarters (GCHQ), the British equivalent of the NSA and the latter's partner in espionage for the past seven decades. The JTRIG infiltrated chat rooms and other online social spaces used by Anonymous to gain human intelligence on Anonymous members. Once gaining hacktivist's trust they inserted spyware called Spyeye. This spyware replicated across many computers, converting them into a single remote controllable network entity called a botnet, under the codename WARPIG.

“Now in darkness world stops turning

Ashes where the bodies burning”

---Black Sabbath, Warpigs



In September 2011, WARPIG was used to launch a massive distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) on various servers where Anonymous-friendly chat-rooms were hosted, bringing them down. DDOS attacks are a tactic in which thousands of computers are used to make internet requests from a server, then cancel them, then request again, eventually overloading the target machine. Some members of Anonymous have openly called for and used DDOS attacks on large corporations as a form of protest that has been likened to an electronic sit-in. DDOS attacks are highly illegal almost all places and this is the only known proven instance of a nation-state’s security service using such a tactic on civilian infrastructure.


The attacks were accompanied by threatening emails sent anonymously to those persons JTRIG could identify. When the digital smoke cleared and the attacked servers recovered, chat room participation had dropped 80 percent according to the GCHQ's own documents. The attacks came immediately before a nation-wide crackdown on the Occupy movement, which was later found to be coordinated by a non-profit group called the Police Executive Research Foundation (PERF), which has a board comprised of big-city police chiefs in the United States and Great Britain. The temporary disruption of Anonymous appears to have been done in advance of a wave of brutality against protestors to keep hackivists from organizing online.



“Treating people just like pawns in chess

Wait 'til their judgment day comes “

--Black Sabbath, Warpigs



A newly revealed private security disinformation attack also shows signs of heading towards the disruption of legal protest and social welfare actions by Anonymous. An article posted on December 27, 2013 on the website of the intelligence community publication AnalystOne made a detailed tutorial on how to use software package called Recorded Future. The program can handle large sets of data and contextualize that data in terms of the timing of the events that said data refers too. Thus, if applied to a large number of tweets, the program could be used to determine who is going to attend a particular protest or meeting on at particular time, or even determine the previously unknown timing of a protest or event.





The article on AnalystOne was written by Bob Gourley, the publisher of AnalystOne and a former naval intelligence officer. The article focuses on an anonymous operation called #opsafewinter (all Anonymous operations are labeled with a hashtag and begin with the letters op) which was planned as a coordinated worldwide campaign to provide services to the homeless, with a focus on warm blankets.


Gourley's article then conflates interest in #opsafewinter with another grassroots campaign against a private youth behavior modification facility in Utah where teenagers, including autistic ones, are allegedly subjected to stress positions, solitary confinement and indoctrination into the Mormon religion. Gourley calls this school, the Logan River Academy, “controversial” without commenting on the mass of allegations by former students. Some members of Anonymous have taken to supporting the already existing grassroots campaign, #shutdownloganriver, but the campaign was not initiated by Anonymous nor is it directly part of #opsafewinter.





While providing gratuitous screen shots of Recorded Future and a tutorial on its use that focuses on Anonymous helping the homeless, Gourley does not mention that he is on Recorded Future's advisory board. Gourley is also on the advisory board of Cloudera, a provider of big data services. Both Cloudera and Recorded Future received start up funding from the CIA's non-profit venture capital firm In-Q-Tel.


Taken together, the efforts of both JTRIG and Gourley show that the corporatized national security state uses its vast surveillance powers not just to track terrorists, but to attack citizens engaged in dissent. If that dissent consists of taking a stand against alleged institutional child abuse or keeping the homeless from freezing to death it is still targeted by the best highest technology and the most classified operatives.