In 1986, Lloyd Blankenship, who went by the stylized handle +++The Mentor+++, drafted "The Conscience of a Hacker," widely known as the Hacker's Manifesto. Blankenship, who was a member of the Legion of Doom and Extasyy Elite, wrote the document shortly after he was arrested.
In the Manifesto, he wrote:
But did you, in your three-piece psychology and 1950's technobrain, ever take a look behind the eyes of the hacker? Did you ever wonder what made him tick, what forces shaped him, what may have molded him?
I am a hacker, enter my world...
The Manifesto goes on to discuss a "kid," bored by school, who discovers computers and the "world of the electron and the switch, the beauty of the baud." The Mentor makes it clear that hackers "exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias..." and ends with "You may stop this individual, but you can't stop us all... after all, we're all alike."
I wonder what The Mentor would say about the activities today of the Anonymous hacking group. In certain respects, the group may be the next generation of The Mentor, with its creed "We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us." and its own manifesto earlier this year requesting certain actions to right the injustices it perceived.
Unfortunately, I don't think it is that simple. While some of the group may be motivated by curiosity and rebellion against society, there are other instances of perceived acts by Anonymous that do not fall so smoothly into hacktivist categories. The latest hack, for example, against Stratfor Forecast on Christmas Eve, does not clearly fall under the hacktivist layer, other than being an attack on "the Man," if you will. Interestingly, there has been some denials issued today by certain segments of the Anonymous group of whether the attack was even an Anonymous attack and defending Stratfor for its work, which it believed "is protected by the freedom of press, a principle which Anonymous values greatly."
We may never know, given the loose networking nature of the Anonymous group, who is or isn't part of Anonymous. As the Anonymous moniker is used more readily by hackers, at some point we will see a backlash within the hacking community. Specifically, we may see Anonymous members "outing" others claiming to be Anonymous who are perceived as muddying the Anonymous creed. Will they succeed where the government and private security companies have failed?
Maybe, in the end, the Hacker's Manifesto's conclusion is not right on. Maybe they aren't all alike. We can only hope.