by Meridith Levinson

Anonymous, LulzSec, AntiSec, Etc.: A Brief History of Hacktivism

Jan 06, 20129 mins
Data BreachIntrusion Detection SoftwareSecurity

The hacktivist collective Anonymous began getting media attention in 2008 with its attacks on the Church of Scientology. Three years later, Anonymous and its many offshoots and associations, including LulzSec, AntiSec, TeamPoison and the Peoples Liberation Front, reached the pinnacle of their infamy with major attacks on powerful corporations and government agencies. Here, presents in pictures an abridged (and admittedly U.S.-centric) timeline of hacktivist activity.

January 2008: The Church of Scientology

Members of Anonymous defaced the Websites of several local chapters of the Church of Scientology and launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against them. Anonymous targeted the Church of Scientology after the church forced Websites to remove a Scientology video featuring Tom Cruise. Anonymous viewed the church’s forceful effort as censorship and a threat to Internet freedom.

September 19, 2008: Fox News/Bill O’Reilly

Anonymous set its sights on Fox News Anchor Bill O’Reilly and his fans. Members of the group hacked into Bill O’Reilly’s Website and obtained the email addresses, passwords and home addresses of 205 O’Reilly site members, which it then turned over to Wikileaks. The next day, Anonymous launched two DDoS attacks against

Pictured here is reportedly an invitation to hack Fox News that Anonymous members circulated on one of its clandestine meeting grounds on 4chan.

October 2010: KISS Bassist Gene Simmons

“Image by ImageShack/Anonymous

Anonymous paralyzed with a DDoS attack as part of “Operation Payback,” a campaign against individuals and organizations that aim to prevent Internet piracy. Anonymous sees the measures that groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) take to protect copyrighted content as a threat to Internet freedom. KISS Bassist Simmons succeeded in fueling Anonymous’s ire when he reportedly announced his desire to see every ‘freckle-faced college kid’ who illegally downloads music get sued.

December 6 – 10, 2010: Financial services companies

“Image by Anonymous

Anonymous launched DDoS attacks against PayPal and other financial services companies that shut off donations to WikiLeaks after the news organization published classified cables from the U.S. State Department. In a poster (pictured) for “Operation Avenge Assange” that Anonymous circulated over the Internet, the group wrote that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange “deifies” the principles that the hacktivist collective holds dear.

December 16, 2010: Santa Cruz County’s Website

The Peoples Liberation Front struck Santa Cruz County’s Website with a DDoS attack that took it offline. According to a press release from the U.S. Justice Department, The Peoples Liberation Front executed the attack after several protesters, who had staged a demonstration at the Santa Cruz County Courthouse, were arrested. Law enforcement officials arrested them because their protest violated restrictions on camping within the city.

Joshua John Covelli (pictured) was indicted on September 22, 2011 for his alleged role in the DDoS attack against Santa Cruz County’s Website. He was previously brought up on charges for his suspected role in the DDoS attack on PayPal.

February 2011: HBGary Federal and its then-CEO Aaron Barr

When Anonymous got wind that Aaron Barr, then CEO of security firm HBGary Federal, planned to unveil the identities of top Anonymous operatives at a security conference, the hacktivist collective made sure that didn’t happen. They hacked into HBGary Federal’s Website and seized highly sensitive emails that they posted online. The email exchanges revealed, among other things, Barr’s schemes to discredit WikiLeaks and writer (and WikiLeaks’ supporter) Glenn Greenwald. The revelations from these emails sent the company into a tailspin. Anonymous succeeded in sending a menacing message of what can happen to people who try to mess with them.

This picture shows HBGary’s booth, which Anonymous vandalized at an RSA conference last year.

April 2011: Sony’s PlayStation Network

“Image by Anonymous

Anonymous hurled traffic at Sony’s PlayStation Network, taking down in early April. The attacks on the PlayStation Network also compromised personal and credit card information on as many as 77 million users. Sony became aware of the breach on April 19, according to the IDG News Service, and took the network offline a day later to investigate it. Anonymous wreaked havoc with Sony’s PlayStation Network for a month, and the breach is reportedly expected to cost Sony $171 million by the end of its 2012 fiscal year.

May 30, 2011: PBS

“Image by LulzSec

This is what PBS’s Website looked like after LulzSec members had their way with it. The merry band of LulzSec pranksters defaced the august news organization’s site after Frontline aired the documentary WikiSecrets, about Bradley Manning’s leak of classified State Department documents to WikiLeaks. Needless to say, LulzSec members weren’t pleased with Frontline’s work.

LulzSec, which claimed while it was active that it only perpetrated attacks for the “lulz” or laughs at others’ expense, also posted a ridiculous news story about deceased rapper Tupac Shakur being found alive in New Zealand. The hackers capped off their “prank” by posting the login names, email addresses and passwords of numerous PBS members and staffers online.

May 27 – June 2, 2011: Sony Pictures

“Image by LulzSec

The hacktivists strike Sony again. This time, LulzSec targeted Sony Pictures and broke into several of the company’s Websites and databases. LulzSec boasted on The Pirate Bay that it “compromised over 1,000,000 users’ personal information, including passwords, email addresses, home addresses, dates of birth, and all Sony opt-in data associated with their accounts.” LulzSec also disclosed that it compromised all of Sony Pictures’ admin details and passwords in addition to 75,000 music codes and 3.5 million music coupons.

June 5, 2011: InfraGard

LulzSec defaced the Website for the Atlanta chapter of InfraGard, a cybercrime-fighting partnership between the FBI and private sector, with the pictured fake YouTube video.

LulzSec also obtained the login names and passwords of approximately 180 InfraGard users, which it released on The Pirate Bay along with damning allegations of a security company CEO’s attempt to bribe LulzSec members into eliminating his competitors. The security company CEO spoke to our sister publication CSO about his tangle with LulzSec.

June 13, 2011: United States Senate

“Image by

LulzSec announced via Twitter and Pastebin its hack of the U.S. Senate’s Website.

June 15, 2011: The CIA

“Image by LulzSec/Twitter

LulzSec aimed its Low Orbit Ion Cannon at the CIA and launched a DDoS attack against the CIA’s Website that incapacitated it for several hours.

June 19, 2011: InfraGard Connecticut

“Image by LulzSec

LulzSec announced on Twitter: “Recently we broke into (InfraGard Connecticut) via simple SQLi and compromised 1,000+ FBI-affiliated members.”

June 23, 2011: Arizona Department of Public Safety

“Image by LulzSec

LulzSec targeted the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s computers and released hundreds of official files and emails, along with the names, email addresses, physical addresses and phone numbers of Arizona law enforcement officials. LulzSec set its sights on the Arizona Public Safety Department to protest the Arizona legislature’s passage of a law that expanded law enforcement officials’ ability to apprehend illegal immigrants.

July 18, 2012: Rupert Murdoch

LulzSec attacked the Website of British newspaper The Sun. They made The Sun’s Website redirect to LulzSec’s Twitter feed, and they posted a bogus news story about Rupert Murdoch dying in his topiary garden after overdosing on palladium.

July 28, 2011: ManTech International

Anonymous tweeted that it broke into the network of defense contractor ManTech International and threatened to release the documents it seized from ManTech’s servers.

August 14, 2011: Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)

Anonymous went after San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system on August 14 and 15. They hacked BART’s Website,, and posted on the Internet the user names, last names, addresses and telephone numbers of more than 2,000 commuters on August 14, according to the IDG News Service. The next day, BART’s site was down.

Anonymous targeted BART after the transit system temporarily disconnected cell phone service for all passengers the previous week, in an effort to thwart a demonstration activists were planning to protest two fatal shootings committed by BART police officers. The protest ended up taking place on Monday, as this picture shows.

October 14 – 15, 2011: Pedophiles

“Image by

Anonymous doesn’t solely hound corporate and government organizations. They harass pedophiles and the Websites that support their perversions, too. As part of Operation Darknet, Anonymous removed all the links to child pornography that it found on an underground Website known as a Darknet. The hacktivists warned the company hosting the images, Freedom Hosting, to remove the illegal content from their servers. When Freedom Hosting refused, Anonymous infiltrated their servers, shut down access to all of their sites, and exposed the login details of 1600 users. Freedom Hosting restored the child pornography sites, only to have Anonymous attack again. Here is a video Anonymous made against the Darknet.

November 18, 2011: Cybercrime Investigator Fred Baclagan

The hacktivist group AntiSec cracked a cybercrime investigator’s gmail and Google voice accounts. Group members leaked more than 38,000 of Fred Baclagan’s private emails—a veritable treasure trove for other hackers and identity thieves. According to the missive AntiSec posted after hijacking Baclagan’s accounts, the emails contained “detailed computer forensics techniques, investigation protocols as well as highly embarrassing personal information.” AntiSec also exposed several dozen of Baclagan’s voice mails and SMS text message logs. The group used Baclagan as a symbol to retaliate against other “white hat” computer security experts who are trying to thwart the efforts of Anonymous and Occupy Wall Street protestors.

November 29, 2011: Financial Services

Anonymous and TeaMp0isoN announced “Operation Robin Hood,” an effort to steal credit card data so that they can donate money to the poor and to protesters worldwide. The two organizations claimed that they had already seized credit card data from Chase, Bank of America and Citibank through major breaches.

December 11, 2011: Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail

“Image by

Exphin1ty, a hacker associated with Anonymous and AntiSec, accessed the member database for CLEAR (Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail) and posted online the names, phone numbers, email and home addresses, and hashed passwords of more than 2,400 law enforcement, federal, military, loss prevention and corporate professionals, according to Exphin1ty’s PasteBin dump.

December 11, 2011: Florida Family Association

An individual associated with Anonymous and AntiSec defaced the Website of the Florida Family Association, a conservative group that pressured home improvement retailer Lowes to end its advertising support for the TLC show “All-American Muslim.” To make the Florida Family Association “answer” for its “hate and divisive vitriol,” according to the Pastebin dump, the hacker exposed the names, email- and IP addresses for several of the association’s members. The hacker also threatened to expose members’ credit card information as well.

December 24, 2011: Stratfor

In what may be hacktivists’ most significant breach to date, AntiSec “pwnd” Stratfor, an intelligence and security company. Hackers defaced Stratfor’s Website and obtained the names, passwords, home addresses, email addresses, and credit card information for thousands of Stratfor clients. They posted much of this information online, and some of the credit card numbers were used to make donations to charities. A Pastebin post claims that AntiSec conducted the Statfor hack to investigate potential “instances of corruption, crime, and deception on the part of certain powerful actors based in the U.S. and elsewhere.”