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Vatican Attack Provides Insight Into Anonymous 355

Hugh Pickens writes "John Markoff writes that an unsuccessful campaign against the Vatican by Anonymous, which did not receive wide attention at the time, provides a rare glimpse into the recruiting, reconnaissance, and warfare tactics used by the shadowy hacking collective and may be the first end-to-end record of a full Anonymous attack. The attack, called Operation Pharisee in a reference to the sect that Jesus called hypocrites, was initially organized by hackers in South America and Mexico and was designed to disrupt Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Madrid in August 2011 for World Youth Day and draw attention to child sexual abuse by priests. First the hackers spent weeks spreading their message through their own website and social sites like Twitter and Flickr calling on volunteers to download free attack software and imploring them to 'stop child abuse' by joining the cause. It took the hackers 18 days to recruit enough people, then a core group of roughly a dozen skilled hackers spent three days poking around the church's World Youth Day site looking for common security holes that could let them inside. In this case, the scanning software failed to turn up any gaps so the hackers turned to a brute-force approach of a distributed denial-of-service, On the first day, the denial-of-service attack resulted in 28 times the normal traffic to the church site, rising to 34 times the next day but did not crash the site. 'Anonymous is a handful of geniuses surrounded by a legion of idiots,' says Cole Stryker, an author who has researched the movement. 'You have four or five guys who really know what they're doing and are able to pull off some of the more serious hacks, and then thousands of people spreading the word, or turning their computers over to participate in a DDoS attack.'"
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Vatican Attack Provides Insight Into Anonymous

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  • by reimero ( 194707 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @02:44PM (#39175311)

    The article also raised two other points I thought were highly relevant:
    First, the Vatican investigated in security and network infrastructure in a way designed to absorb attacks.
    Second, they made the conscious decision that they weren't going to get into a PR battle with Anonymous (the Vatican official's quote about not commenting on real or potential threats.) A cynic might suggest that the Vatican is good at not commenting, but my takeaway is that this decision was mostly a "we're not going to give Anonymous the satisfaction of any sort of formal response." In a real sense, it's the same basic response that some of the most effective opposition to Westboro Baptist has given. The last thing Anonymous wants is to be ignored.

  • Re:Why? (Score:5, Informative)

    by maestroX ( 1061960 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:37PM (#39176199)

    So...why attack in 2012? What is the point? If this was 1990, it'd be more understandable.

    You missed the scandals in Europe lately, lots of abuses cases (read: *thousands* in NL, BE, FR, I repeat thousands, not one) emerged *after* the deadline for criminal prosecution. Lots of victims bear memories of youth without any compensation and meager acknowledgement; even a priest who manages to say 'Ich habe es nicht gewusst'.
    Considering the scale and impact of the abuse, it's in no way comparable to the actions of a single man; you're downplaying the issue, your comparison is moot and insensitive, it is a structural issue (sexual repression) with no single offender, but LOTS of offenders, more than any other organization in existence.
    *Any* other organization having this trackrecord of abusing children would be declared illegal immediately.
    Ignorant prick.

  • this is funny (Score:0, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:51PM (#39176421)

    'Anonymous is a handful of geniuses surrounded by a legion of idiots,'

    this line is simply funny. You could replace Anonymous with anything you want, any company or entity that exist and you know when you think about it, it would still make a lot of sense. lol

Thus spake the master programmer: "When a program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"