A hacker startup calling itself Backtrace Security–made up of individuals who formerly counted themselves as part of Anonymous’ loose digital collective–announced plans Friday to publish identifying information on a handful of active members of Anonymous. According to one source within the Backtrace group, it will release the names and instant messaging logs of dozens of Anonymous hackers who took part in attacks on PayPal, Mastercard, the security firm HBGary,Westboro Baptist Church, and the Marine officials responsible for the detainment of WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning.
That spokesman, who goes by the name Hubris and calls himself BackTrace’s “director of psychological operations,” tells me that the group (Backtrace calls itself a company, but Hubris says it’s still in the process of incorporating) aims to put an end to Anonymous “in its current form.” That form, Hubris argues, is a betrayal of its roots: Fun-loving, often destructive nihilism, not the political hacktivism Anonymous has focused on for much of the past year. “[Anonymous] has truly become moralfags,” says Hubris, using the term for hackers who focus on political and moral causes instead of amoral pranks. “Anonymous has never been about revolutions. It’s not about the betterment of mankind. It’s the Internet hate machine, or that’s what it’s supposed to be.”
Backtrace has posted a triple-encrypted torrent file labeled “insurance”–a tip of the hat to WikiLeaks–on its website, BacktraceSecurity.com, and says it’s posting hundreds of links to copies on filesharing sites. Early next week the group plans to release the keys to unlock that file, which contains the names, pseudonyms, chat logs and methods of the Anonymous hackers. It’s a tactic, Hubris says, designed to cause “maximum fear and distress” for the individuals Backtrace is outing.
Backtrace’s members largely haven’t been active in Anonymous for years–Hubris says he only participated in the anti-Scientology protests in 2009 and none of its more recent operations. But he and others with Backtrace gained access to Anonymous hackers’ information by infiltrating the group with false identities and other “social engineering” tricks that he says fooled members into revealing themselves. “The whole point of this is that we didn’t break any laws,” Hubris says. “All we did was hack peoples’ minds, because they’re fucking retarded.”
Backtrace hopes to turn those digital dark arts into a business. Hubris sent me a “mission statement” for the group that calls Backtrace “an information security provider” focusing on “psychological operations/social engineering and deep investigative research.”
“Backtrace Security assists our clients predict and neutralize emerging social threats,” the statement reads. “While other security companies specialize in hardware/software vulnerabilities and exploitation; Backtrace specializes in the human experience.”
And doesn’t the group fear the same retaliation from Anonymous that hit HBGary Federal, the last firm to claim it could identify Anonymous’ leaders? In that case, Anonymous spilled 71,000 of the company’s emails onto the Web, defaced the company’s website, and hijacked the Twitter account of Aaron Barr, its chief executive. After a variety of dirty tricks were revealed in the company’s hacked emails, including proposals to launch cyberattacks on WikiLeaks and threaten its supporters, Barr resigned from the company.
Hubris says he’s confident Backtrace won’t face the same fate. He calls the Anonymous hackers “script kiddies” and downplays their skills, arguing that the HBGary hack was based merely on the company’s reusing passwords and falling victim to social engineering. ”If you do enough damage to someone, you don’t have to fear retaliation.” says Hubris. “Once the world sees who these kids are and what they stand for, no one will follow them.”
Hubris hopes to launch Backtrace as a startup while also calling attention to what he sees as Anonymous’ hypocrisy. “They say they fight for free speech, but then they use fear and intimidation, like Scientology or Fox News,” he says. “That’s not freeodm of speech, and we won’t put up with that crap.”
And how would Hubris prefer Anonymous spend its time? “Making fun of stupid people on the Internet. Laughing at natural disasters. Like back to the good old days,” he says. “Not trying to overthrow governments.”
To all hackers, groups, Anonymous and sympathizers. Spread this message and Fire!
We will completely and utterly destroy these scum bags.