Yesterday, an environmentalist faction of Anonymous took down a Hawaiian state government website and a site for the Thirty Meter Telescope project, a controversial effort to build the world's second largest telescope atop Mauna Kea. You've probably never heard of Operation Green Rights. But that's the point.
Believe it or not, Anonymous still exists. Through focused groups like Operation Green Rights, the quasi-infamous and purportedly leaderless band of hacktivists is still stirring up shit. They're just not stirring up very much of it, and — as always — convoluting the issues at stake.
In their recent action, Operation Green Rights hit the telescope project and the Hawaiian government sites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, taking them offline for about two hours. Mauna Kea, already home to over a dozen international telescopes, is considered the most sacred mountain of the native Hawaiian people. Some groups are protesting adding another large scope to the peak. However, the issue is political rather than environmental, and even Hawaiians are divided on whether or not the telescope would be good for the region. The DDoS attack coincided with a series of protests in the streets of Honolulu.
As usual, not much happened with the DDoS attack. Hawaiian officials reported no measurable consequences of the incident. According to the Associated Press report, "The group's Twitter posting drew relatively minimal reaction, with 18 retweets and 33 'favourites.'"
Those numbers have since increased (slightly) since then. But it's nothing like the days when Anonymous ops used to command the world's attention. Remember the Scientology attack? Remember Operation Payback? Remember the HBGary emails? Remember when people were really scared of Anonymous?
Still, this wing of Anonymous is aiming high. Operation Green Rights has actually been organising actions for four years, taking on everyone from the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to Monsanto. The targets are ostensibly those who destroy the environment, though the group claims in its almost incomprehensible manifesto that they're pretty much after anyone who "commits murder, exploit and oppress [sic.] people and goes against the principles of democracy human respect against the principles of democracy and human respect." So pretty much anyone who is evil.
It's easy to brush off all of those empty threats we've seen Anonymous make over the years because they're often so random. (At one point, an Anonymous faction vowed to take down Facebook because Facebook.) But Operation Green Rights at least has a nominal target.
Last year, this particular faction successfully obtained and released personal details of over 10,000 accounts from global corporations and governments — an apparently random collection of employees connected to the EU Sustainable Energy meeting. Just before that, Operation Green Rights claimed to have hacked into the accounts of some 1,800 environment-destroying companies like Dow, Dupont, Bayer, and, again, Monsanto. All along the way, it's unclear whether the actions were specifically targeted at environmental issues or simply focused on sparking disruption.
So Anonymous is still capable of causing a ruckus. And Operation Green Rights, for one, seems hell bent on getting its message out there. Whatever that message might be.