Hacker group "Anonymous" announces cyberattacks

The internet vigilante group that shut down the websites of Visa and MasterCard has a new target.

"Anonymous" has threatened to launch cyberattacks against the Chilean and Peruvian governments.

It says the governments are violating the privacy of internet users by monitoring conversations on Facebook, Twitter and blogs.

The Chilean government is paying a company $30,000 to monitor "what people are saying" on social media sites. But it's not clear why the group is targeting Peru, which doesn't have standard content control or monitoring, reports the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

The group announced their new campaign in a video posted to YouTube, with a message read by a man in a Guy Fawkes mask.

The group, which is a loose collection of hackers, is the target of a major FBI investigation. U.S. government officials have blamed it for “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks on major corporate and government targets.

It has taken credit for attacking the websites of the Church of Scientology, the governments of Australia, Egypt, Iran and Zimbabwe, and MasterCard, PayPal and other financial companies that cut ties with WikiLeaks after the publication of leaked U.S. military and diplomatic documents, according to MSNBC.

A spokesman for the group who spoke to the Guardian said it was a "loose band of people who share the same kind of ideals" and wish to be a force for "chaotic good." From the Guardian:

There is no real command structure in the group, the London-based spokesman said, while most of its members are teenagers who are "trying to make an impact on what happens with the limited knowledge they have". But others are parents, IT professionals and people who happen to have time – and resources – on their hands. ...

Anonymous was born out of the influential internet messageboard 4chan, a forum popular with hackers and gamers, in 2003. The group's name is a tribute to 4chan's early days, when any posting to its forums where no name was given was ascribed to "Anonymous". But the ephemeral group, which picks up causes "whenever it feels like it", has now "gone beyond 4Chan into something bigger", its spokesman said.

The membership of Anonymous is impossible to pin down; it has been described as being like a flock of birds – the only way you can identify members is by what they're doing together. Essentially, once enough people on the 4chan message boards decide that an issue is worth pursuing in large enough numbers, it becomes an "Anonymous" cause.

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