Behold the Dawn of Citizen-as-Hacktivist
Q: How long will this attack go on for?
A: There is no time frame. We will keep going until we stop being angry.
Something really fascinating is happening right now. Thousands of people, pissed off at law firms and media conglomerates for persecuting individuals with multi-million dollar file sharing lawsuits are fighting back. They're using their combined efforts to attack and take down the websites of the media bullies and their proxies (their law firms) and they're succeeding at every turn.
The tactic being used is called DDoS, which in layman's terms is essentially hammering a website from multiple targets as to render it unable to communicate properly with legitimate visitors. The result is that the site will slow to a crawl, and in some cases go completely offline as the server buckles under the load. In one of the more advanced cases, the attackers grabbed 350MB of email from one unscrupulous law firm in the UK and published it on the Pirate Bay for all the world to see.
And who are the perpetrators of these attacks? Nobody knows. They are "Anonymous", the horde of pissed-off people, tired of being persecuted for participating in our Shared Culture. More importantly though, they've gone on the offencive against those who have gotten used to treating the public like an ATM.
This is just the beginning, but it's an exciting first step. The Internet has allowed groups to collectively organise, and to do things no individual or big city law firm could ever hope to accomplish on their own. Now that the tools are becoming more ubiquitous, it's inevitable that these sorts of actions will increase both in popularity and in scale.
Imagine being able to download a tiny program to anonymously contribute the computational power of your desktop, and the bandwidth of your internet connection to help destroy Royal Dutch Shell's communication network, or hack the RIAA's VPN. The possibilities are both awesome and terrifying, but I'm confident that the anarchy it produces will lead to a more egalitarian world.
It's interesting then, that on the evening I'd set aside to write about this phenomenon, I discovered this excellent TED talk about the differences between institutional organisations and collaborative ones. The talk is about five years old, but couldn't be more relevant: