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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fawkes News

You've probably already heard that the hacker collective Anonymous is promising to hack and shut down the Fox News website on Guy Fawkes Day, in response to what they perceive as unfair and unbalanced coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

I'm not going to address the politics of this, interesting though they are. I'm also not going to address whether I think what Anonymous is planning is "right or wrong"; that is for the history books to decide. If you follow this blog at all, you know that I have very little patience for Fox News, and corporate news media generally. My issue with them is mostly their execrable science reporting. I also don't typically agree with the political bias of Fox News, but I staunchly defend their right to hold and express their political opinions, however erroneous. I also don't agree with a lot of the tactics or motives of Anonymous. So these are my own biases, but the politics of Fox News or Anonymous are not my real interest at the moment.

What I'm more interested in are the tactics behind the announcement Anonymous made. From a purely tactical standpoint it seems very weird to me that Anonymous would go to the great lengths it has to pre-announce the target and date of the attack.

To date, Anonymous has succeeded in about 50% of their attacks, which is respectable. But that indicates that while their hackers are very competent, they're not infallible. So if a massive crippling cyber-attack on the Fox News website were indeed being planned, it would seem to be in the best interests of Anonymous to stack the deck as much in favor of success as possible. A little stealth goes a long way. That the already paranoid Fox will now step-up their already substantial internet security is given.

Also given is that by pre-announcing the date and form of the attack, if Anonymous fails, everyone will know that, and Fox will make hay out of it. Without pre-announcing, the situation for Anonymous would be win-win; if the attack works, they get the credit, and if it doesn't, nobody is the wiser. But they've gone to a fair amount of trouble to ensure that this isn't the case. If Anonymous fails in their attack, they will do so famously, and their political capital goes way down.

Also, by pre-announcing the hack, they've ensured that many more people will visit the Fox News website that day, increasing Fox's advertising revenue. It occurred to me based on this that perhaps Fox WAS "Anonymous", and the whole thing was just a gimmick to get more traffic on the Fox News website. But Fox News doesn't seem to be covering it at all. And if the point of pre-announcing was to intimidate, it doesn't seem to be having much effect.

So, I'm left with only a couple of possibilities. One is that Anonymous is in fact planning a major cyberattack on Fox News for the 5th of November, and are so incredibly confident of their success that they're deliberately taunting the Fox cyber-security people. Which could be the case. The other possibility I can see, which would be rather more clever if it happened to work, is that Anonymous is counting on enough people going to the Fox News website that day to crash their servers. But that would probably require a rather larger ad campaign than what Anonymous has put forward so far.

So, we'll see what we see.


  1. Interesting, maybe they are watching to see what the fixes are to spot weakness? Not my area, don't really know.

    Not completely unrelated - you might want to check out the blog ZenPundit - the author is a Col John Boyd fan, of OODA loop fame. My first intro to Boyd was "The Mind of War" by Hammond (I think)

  2. I have a good friend who works in cyber security, previously for Air Force intelligence and now for a commercial company. I'm hoping he'll weigh in here on this, he's far more knowledgeable than myself regarding such things.