Over the last twelve months, the sprawling hacktivist collective known as Anonymous has marshalled its resources against ISIS, the Klu Klux Klan, and now Donald Trump. Although these campaigns appear to position the group as a crusader in the name of social justice, its tactics are sending more legitimate organizations scurrying for cover.
In order to prevent themselves from being attacked, businesses—even those apparently unrelated to Trump—must now renew their attention to DDoS mitigation and DLP by enabling greater network visibility.
A History of Frequent Misfires
The problem with Anonymous—leaving aside the fact that its activities are illegal—is that its decentralized nature lends itself to a certain inaccuracy as far as selecting its targets is concerned. For example, take a look at OpKKK, the massive anti-KKK operation that the group undertook in November of 2015.
Although Anonymous claimed it would release a massive list of “doxxed” KKK members on November 5th, the impact of the dump was diluted when a different Anonymous faction released a similar list three days earlier. Although the list of names released on November 2nd was much more impressive than the “official” list, containing the names of business leaders and sitting politicians, it had the added distinction of being almost entirely false.
The Anonymous campaign against ISIS included several similar misfires. A campaign to degrade ISIS operations on Twitter resulting in thousands of legitimate, non-ISIS accounts being taken down by an automated script. Cultural misunderstandings, casual racism, and a desire to show off resulted in a hacktivism campaign that couldn’t get out of its own way. Some of the attackers in question barely seemed to understand that ISIS was a group, not an individual. In the meantime, the overall ISIS presence on Twitter was almost entirely unaffected.
To summarize, if Anonymous designates a target, expect a lot of collateral damage. What, however, should organizations expect from a sustained campaign against Donald Trump?
The Campaign Against Trump is Ripe for Spillover
The big difference between Donald Trump and the previous targets of Anonymous is that Donald Trump represents a large collection of business interests. If a single ordinary person gets falsely branded as a KKK member or an ISIS supporter by Anonymous, there's some potential for really bad consequences. When the target is a presidential campaign, the splash damage is potentially much larger.
Although Garland Technology predicted that the 2016 presidential campaign was ripe for a cyber attack, it's not a stretch to imagine that any Trump-branded business is now a target. Let's not stop there, however. What if the CEO of your company has made public statements in support of Trump? What if your company provides services for a Trump casino or resort? What if your company used to provide these services, but stopped? What if you never had a single thing to do with Donald Trump, but Anonymous thinks you did?
The point is that once the hacktivist collective has you in its sights, reason and logic no longer apply. How can you deflect the vigilantes once they name you as a target?
Invest in Security Intelligence and Network Visibility
First of all, security intelligence is crucial. The good news is that Anonymous conducts much of its planning and operations on various public forums—Twitter, Reddit, 4Chan etc. If you suspect that you may become the target of hacktivists, you might delegate a team member who can monitor those channels.
Second of all, be aware that while Anonymous has been around for about fifteen years, its tactics haven't really kept up with the times. Its most popular ploys still include DDoS attacks, SQL injection, and cross site scripting. These attacks can still cripple an unprepared website, but can be deflected by simple preparations.
First, monitor your application’s code for vulnerabilities that could lead to code injection. Second, install a network TAP in order to maximize your visibility across the network. This preparation can provide you with the visibility necessary to detect a DDoS attack before it becomes problematic. A network TAP can also provide 100% visibility to DPL solutions, which can thwart “doxxing” attempts—the practice of stealing the personal information of a company’s employees or customers and posting them on a public site in order to shame them.
Drawing upon the power of a network TAP is the only way to ensure your security appliances see every bit, byte and packet® to protect your network from harm—whether it’s targeted or collateral damage. If Donald Trump and his team of top security professionals can be targeted, companies of all sizes should start shoring up their defenses.
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