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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