This Saturday the world will learn the truth about the Anonymous hacktivist plot called Operation Global Blackout – a conspiracy so cunning its first step was to manipulate victims into doing the work of creating their own catastrophe.
On February 12 members of Anonymous announced their intention to bring down the "13 root DNS servers" that allow web browsers and web servers to find one another, effectively crash the entire Internet with just one attack.
Operation Global Blackout, as the conspirators called the project first in a Pastebin post and later in a YouTube video, will bring down the Internet only briefly to demonstrate the power of Anonymous and draw attention to its cause.
In this case the cause is opposition to "SOPA, Wall Street our irresponsible leaders and the beloved bankers who are starving the world for their own selfish needs."
The threat's primary point of back-asswardness is the difference between the technique Anonymi describe in their threat with more than enough detail to help security teams defend against it.
On the other hand, the object of their protest, is so non-specific (and in SOPA's case, already defunct) that it's not clear what Operation Global Blackout's conspirators hope governments, citizens or law-enforcement agencies could do to address it even if they chose to.
While the attack is technically possible, it's almost impossibly unlikely, not least because the main Anonymous news outlets have stopped talking about it at all, even to recruit others to help.
Many have baldly contradicted the threat, calling the whole Operation Global Blackout plan a fake, a myth or a lie.
"Deception! Bad news for participating anons," read one Tweet from ultramegaman Feb. 15, which was retweeted by the @YourAnonNews feed of (usually) genuine Anonymous updates.
At least one specifically names #OpGlobalBlackout under the list of "Deception Ops," those designed to throw authorities off the track of Anonymous' real intentions and activities by giving them a big, flashing attractive target to follow.
An ameliorative video posted Feb. 9 – by someone other than the one who posted the other videos, claimed all the OpBlackout and OpGlobalBlackout threats were attempts to raise awareness "of what we can do, not what we will do."
The propaganda is fooling the wrong side
The op itself is almost certainly a scam designed to attract attention and distract law enforcement, though it is also possible it's a real op launched by a subset of Anonymi who weren't able to attract enough support to make it a serious effort.
Either way it appears the main power blocs within Anonymous have either acceded to or joined in the effort to make OpGlobalBlackout a bigger, more effective hoax by no longer debunking it publicly.
That change, the go-team cheers of many who want to see it succeed and worried Tweets from those who fear it will have built OpGlobalBlackout into a phenomenon, easily accomplishing the goal of attracting global attention to the operation, Anonymous itself
The propaganda is confusing many who are already on Anonymous' side, some of whom believe it's a terrible idea, others worry about being left out of an operation that might be real.
- "I need clarification on an #OpBlackout is it going to happen or not cuz I'm a little confused anyone care to comment? #Anonymous" – Anonym0us_Cr0w, 5tr4ightJ4ck3t, 6:30 PM ET, March 28.
- "It's stupid cause why would we kill our own communications it sounds mighty fishy to me?" @EvangelinaOliv3 , March 28
- "@ YourAnonNews please dispel all # OpBlackout Myths, # OpGlobalBlackout is USAGOV corrupted/fake/terrorism. FAQs @ http://blackout.AaronBale.com" – Tweeted by inspiReMi2269 @AnonForecast tonight at 6:37 ET.
The most likely truth behind Operation Global Blackout – whatever the truth was when it was first announced – is that the rumors and fear they create are themselves the operation, not an actual attack on the 'net's root DNS servers.
OpGlobalBlackout wastes the bandwidth it takes for worried potential victims to talk about it, the attention of law enforcement agencies forced by complaints and inquiries to investigate it, the defensive preparations required of DNS masters who would look incredibly stupid if they ignored the threat but were successfully attacked anyway, and the news stories, opinions, chatter and circular coverage-of-other-people's-coverage in the media, which only make the hoax more real and more effective by blaring it out to start the cycle of worry all over again.
#OpGlobalBlackout is a fake, except the part about getting you to waste effort and bandwidth worrying
OpGlobalBlackout is not an attack that will take down the Internet. Anonymous likes the Internet. Anonymous lives and breathes by the Internet. It will not take the Internet down.
OpGlobalBlackout is a red herring, a socially engineered mindworm that accomplishes the same purpose as an attack – generating fear, hand-wringing, long discussions about how to prevent another disaster and whether the reasons of the attackers were valid – all without requiring anyone to actually launch an attack that would be unlikely to succeed for more than a short time, if at all.
So tell your family, colleagues and friends: Operation Global Blackout is a fake.
Anonymous is not preparing to kill the Internet.
The more you worry about it in email and in online forums the more damage you create from the actual attack – fooling you into worrying about a disaster that isn't going to happen.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.