Richard Stallman: Anonymous Attacks neither Hacking nor Cracking nor DDoSing but Mass Demos
Quoting the important part of the article, the rest is admittedly a lot of rambling and ranting. Anyhow, it’s Richard Stallman, so that makes his opinion on how to describe recent events kinda relevant:
The Anonymous web protests over WikiLeaks are the internet equivalent of a mass demonstration. It’s a mistake to call them hacking (playful cleverness) or cracking (security breaking). The LOIC program that is being used by the group is prepackaged so no cleverness is needed to run it, and it does not break any computer’s security. The protesters have not tried to take control of Amazon’s website, or extract any data from MasterCard. They enter through the site’s front door, and it just can’t cope with the volume.
Calling these protests DDoS, or distributed denial of service, attacks is misleading, too. A DDoS attack is done with thousands of “zombie” computers. Typically, somebody breaks the security of those computers (often with a virus) and takes remote control of them, then rigs them up as a “botnet” to do in unison whatever he directs (in this case, to overload a server). The Anonymous protesters’ computers are not zombies; presumably they are being individually operated.
No – the proper comparison is with the crowds that descended last week on Topshop stores. They didn’t break into the stores or take any goods from them, but they sure caused a nuisance for the owner, Philip Green. I wouldn’t like it one bit if my store (supposing I had one) were the target of a large protest. Amazon and MasterCard don’t like it either, and their clients were probably annoyed. Those who hoped to buy at Topshop on the day of the protest may have been annoyed too.
The internet cannot function if websites are frequently blocked by crowds, just as a city cannot function if its streets are constantly full by protesters. But before you advocate a crackdown on internet protests, consider what they are protesting: on the internet, users have no rights. As the WikiLeaks case has demonstrated, what we do online, we do on sufferance.
I found most interesting that Stallman denied the attacks should be characterized as DDoS. You might call it semantics (because it still would obviously have been a DoS attack), but I thought it was a noteworthy point, especially because some people have tried to establish that these actions have been steered by a small, conspiratorial elite, essentially using “Anonymous”es as their private zombie army.