BEHIND THE FRONTLINES
OF A CYBERWAR
A STUDY GUIDE BY JENNy O’MEARA
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 2 OF 10
Future Radicals is a half-hour
documentary that tracks the history,
growth and increasing surveillance
of the global cyber activist movement
known as Anonymous. Part futuristic
fantasy, part civil rights activists,
Anonymous are a group of masked
vigilantes who’ve been waging a global
war to defend freedom of information
on the internet since 2003.
The group employs the very same
technology that it fights to protect –
the internet, social media and whatever
digital technology it can use as a
weapon – illegal or not. Add their
schmick multi-media, call-to-arms,
propaganda campaign featuring
the Guy Fawkes mask and the logo
of the “suit without a head” and you
have a powerful worldwide cyber
activist community ready for action.
The program tracks the movement’s
unlikely beginnings as a bunch of
obnoxious cyber pranksters on the
website 4chan, to its evolution into
a more organised and ethically
motivated group that rallies in support
of the Arab Spring and Wikileaks.
The media has called them ‘hackers
on steroids’, ‘domestic terrorists’,
and ‘an internet hate machine’.
But Anonymous protests typically
include the blocking and defacement
of websites and the leaking of hacked
private information in order to
bring public attention to a freedom
of information or civil rights issue.
Anonymous has targeted large
corporations, religious groups,
law enforcement and security firms.
As a result, ASIO, Scotland Yard
and the FBI are among the agencies
that now have ‘Anonymous’ squarely
in their sites. And ditto goes for
Anonymous who, in retaliation,
have turned their cyber ‘lasers’ back
against the agents who hunt them.
Future Radicals includes ‘insider’
details of protest Operations that
include hilarious, humiliating and
downright incriminating cyber stunts
against its victims. An account of how
the FBI ‘turn’ a high profile Anon
member so as to bring about a counter
sting against ‘Anonymous’ in an
attempt to incriminate Wikileaks
is compelling viewing.
Interviews with cyber security experts,
journalists and actual ‘Anons’ highlight
the dual nature of the internet – that
it’s not just the most liberating tool for
humanity ever invented – it’s also the
worst for surveillance.
Learning that their online identities
are not as ‘anonymous’ as they think
is a sobering realisation for a movement
whose denizens have been increasingly
tracked, infiltrated and systematically
arrested across the globe.
Along with Anonymous’ propaganda
videos, archival news footage and
a series of revealing interviews,
Future Radicals is a unique expose
on the Anonymous movement and
the activities that have made it some
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 3 OF 10
Future Radicals runs for 30 minutes,
and is a suitable resource for use at
middle senior secondary levels. It can
be used as a tool for enquiry in the
following curriculum Areas: Science,
English, Film & Media, Civics and Citizen-
ship, Australian and Global Politics and
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 4 OF 10
Anonymous has no leader instead
relying on the collective power of
individuals. Anonymous is spread
over many mediums and languages,
with membership being achieved
simply by wishing to join. A “loose
coalition of internet denizens,”
the group is banded together by the
internet, IRC channels, and YouTube.
Social networking services, such as
Facebook, are used for the creation
of groups, which reach out to people
to mobilize in real-world protests.
Many people affiliated with
Anonymous associate with the
Guy Fawkes mask, either at protests,
or within images spread online.
Anonymous have caught the
attention of the media and the public
internationally for attacking Paypal;
Mastercard; Visa; Sony; Bank of
America; (companies perceived to be
enemies of the whistle-blowing website
Wikileaks) and religious institutions
such as the Church of Scientology.
In fact any individual or group
who Anonymous believe restrict
access to information on the internet,
in anyway, can rest assured they are
next on the long and ever increasing
list of targets. They have been called
a “a puddle of pimple-faced nerds”;
“supremely bored 15-year olds”; and
“[an]…internet Hate Machine”. Their
efficacy has been questioned and
their perceived threat downplayed
by security firms across the world.
The Australian Government has
been a target on several occasions,
with operations against the Australian
Government’s plans for ISP-level
censorship of the internet. Despite
these attacks, The Australian
Government boldly claims: “[their
attacks]…should not be considered
cyber terrorism…” However, as always,
actions speak louder than words, and
Anonymous have launched successful
strikes against the governments of
Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and more recently
Turkey proving they are definitely
a force to be reckoned with.
The recent arrests of Anonymous
members worldwide clearly indicate
the authorities are taking the war
they are waging more seriously.
In June 2012, the Australian Federal
Police knocked on the doors of six
young hackers suspected of performing
denial of service attacks. Parents in
Brisbane, Sydney and Perth were told
by AFP officers that their children had
participated in various “cybercrime-
related activities”. Each were handed
copies of Commonwealth cybercrime
legislation warned of the implications
of their actions. The young hackers
were told activities such as hacking,
virus-writing and launching DDoS
attacks could lead to convictions and
at worst attract up to ten years in
prison. The cautions were made under
the ThinkUKnow initiative between
the AFP and Microsoft. None of those
warned were charged.
Anonymous: Freedom Fighters?
Or Criminals? You decide…
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 5 OF 10
Is a term that combines the terms ‘hacker’
and ‘activism’ and generally means the
use of technical tools, including denial
of service attacks, virtual sit-ins, web
page defacement or redirects, to show-
case a political message through either
illegal or legally ambiguous methods.
A public citizen who plays an active
role in the process of collecting,
reporting, analyzing, and disseminating
news and information.
LOLZ: Lots of Laughs
Text message shorthand, used primarily
in texting, online chat, IM, email, blogs,
and newsgroup postings, LOLZ is the
plural form of LOL.
Corruption of LOL, online shorthand
for “laugh out loud”.
A group of people who act or think
in unison as if they are all the same
individual. Like a swarm of bees …
DDoS: Distributed Denial-of-Service
Attack is one in which a multitude of
compromised systems attack a single
target, thereby causing denial of service
for users of the targeted system. The
flood of incoming messages to the target
system essentially forces it to shut down.
Is the posting the personal information
(usually in the form of digital documents,
hence “D0x”) of the target as publicly
and in as many places as possible.
IRC: iRelay Chat
Is a protocol for real-time internet text
messaging (chat). It is mainly designed
for group communication in discussion
forums called channels, but also allows
one-to-one communication via private
message as well as chat and data transfer
including file sharing.
LOIC: Low Orbit Ion Cannon
Is a network stress testing application
that has been used by Anonymous
to accomplish its DDOS attacks.
Individuals download the LOIC and
voluntarily contribute their computer
to a bot net.
Serve a command computer, carrying
out automated functions at their
master’s bidding. Common bot crimes
include denial-of-service, extortion,
identity theft, spam, and fraud.
Multiple infected computers together
form a botnet, with each individual
computer also termed a zombie.
Generally refers to any person who
enjoys understanding, modifying,
and exploring programmable systems,
particularly computers and computer
An inexperienced or juvenile hacker.
Whereby a hacker uses clever
manipulation of the natural human
tendency to trust to obtain information
that will allow unauthorized access
to a valued system and its information.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 6 OF 10
Civil & Human Rights Activist.
*Gov’t Corruption, be damned.*
I don’t break into things, I break
out of things.
Is a member of the Cult of the
Dead Cow hacking collective and
Executive Director of Hacktivismo,
an international group of technologists
that counsels human rights organizations.
Oxblood is a founding member of the
Dharamsala Information Technology
Group in Dharamsala, India, and
has spoken at the University of Oregon,
Yale, and Harvard law schools on
cybercrime and free speech issues.
He is currently writing a book on
Gabriella (Biella) Coleman is the
Wolfe Chair in Scientific and
Technological Literacy in the Art
History and Communication Studies
Department at McGill University.
Trained as an anthropologist,
Gabriella examines the ethics of
as well as the role of the law and
digital media in sustaining various
forms of political activism. As the
most renowned international expert on
the cyber activist network Anonymous,
she has appeared in the media and
as conference speaker worldwide.
Is an activist, author, and freelance
writer specializing in “information
age” issues, most usually associated
in the press with net activism and
his past advocacy of Anonymous.
His work has appeared in the Guardian,
Vanity Fair, Al Jazeera, Huffington
Post, Skeptic, Skeptical Inquirer,
New York Press, American Atheist,
and other outlets. In 2009, Brown
began to recruit volunteers for
a “distributed think tank” called Project
PM which investigates the private
intelligence sector and promotes
effective opposition to surveillance,
data mining, and advanced
disinformation techniques by states
and other institutions.
Spent his teenage years back in the 90’s
huddled in front of computers, trying
to find ways to access things that other
people really didn’t want him to access.
A few years later at age 17, he was visited
by the friendly federal police, which
caused him to reconsider his illegal
hobbies. A year later he was hired as
a professional hacker by an IT security
firm. Since then Jody has spent almost
15 years advising large corporations,
banks and governments of flaws in
their security systems. Nowadays Jody
is a Senior Consultant with Hacklabs
and specialises in Ethical Hacking.
Is an Australian journalist who’s
been reporting on the information
security discipline since 2001. These
days he hosts the Risky Business security
podcast; a weekly news and current
affairs digest for information security
professionals. Before the podcast
launched in 2007 he wrote for The
Sydney Morning Herald and The Age,
ACP Magazines, Wired.com, ZDNet
Australia, SecurityFocus.com, Business
Week and many, many more.
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 7 OF 10
06. Discuss how the internet might
be used against its people.
07. What do you know about the
Australian laws relating to
the activities of cyberactivists?
Are any of these activities illegal?
08. Are there cyberactivists who work
within the Australian law (e.g.
Citizen journalists, GetUp, Avaaz)
09. What do you know about freedom
of information, surveillance and
copyright on the internet? Is this
issue relevant in Australia? What
are the pros and cons of these?
10. Give three examples of other
countries where this is also an
important issue. Discuss why you
have chosen these countries and
11. How might surveillance and freedom
of information change how we use
the internet in the next five years?
Pre VIEWING: THEMES & QUESTIONS:
01. Examine Anonymous’ visual
iconography. What is the history of
the Guy Fawkes mask? Why did the
mask come to be used by followers
of the Anonymous movement?
02. What does the Anonymous logo of
the suit without a head symbolise?
03. What is hacking? Are there
different types of hackers? What is
a black hat hacker? What is a white
hat hacker? What role can ethics
play for hackers?
04. How does cyberactivism differ
from more traditional acts of civil
05. Discuss what role the internet
can play in a healthy democracy.
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 8 OF 10
07. What illegal activities do
Anonymous get involved in and
what are the Australian penalties
associated with these actions?
08. Are there other options, which
are legal? Are they more, or less
09. Discuss anonymity and the reason
the movement’s followers wish to
10. What are the key arguments for,
and against cyber activism and
hacktivism as portrayed in the film?
11. What ethical issues does the film
raise about Anonymous’ activities?
How do the different participants
deal with these? Do you think they
are resolved satisfactorily?
12. Discuss the ‘hivemind’ idea of the
collective individual? Why do you
think this type of structure appeals
13. How successful is Anonymous at
spreading their message; recruiting
people to their causes, achieving
01. How did the Anonymous
movement begin? How did
it change over time?
02. What is the Anonymous
movement fighting for?
03. What is freedom of information
and why is Anonymous so
concerned about it?
04. What modes of communication
does the Anonymous movement
employ and how do these differ
from tradition forms of media?
05. What methods do they use to
protest? Why? How successful
do you think they are? Are some
methods better than others? Why?
06. Can ‘hacktivism’ be compared
to previous resistance movements
such as the racial equality, anti war
and the women’s rights movements
of the 1960s/70s?
14. What do you think anonymous’
failures have been, if any?
15. Examine the way mainstream
media relates to the actions
of the Anonymous movement:
how does it depict the movement?
Is it balanced and fair?
16. What role has the media played
in their evolution? How successful
would Anonymous be without
17. What do you think the future holds
for Anonymous, and for hacktivism
18. Examine Anonymous arrests
worldwide and Australia-wide. What
conclusion does the film offer?
19. What is the difference between
a cyber activist and a cyber terrorist?
20. Anonymous: cyberactivists or
criminals? You decide.
Post VIEWING: THEMES & QUESTIONS:
FUTURE RADICALS: BEHIND THE FRONTLINES OF A CYBERWAR PAGE 9 OF 10
High Tech Crime
Australian Federal Police Definition
Crimes such as computer intrusions,
unauthorised modification of data,
including destruction of data, denial-
of-service (DoS) attacks, distributed
denial of service (DDoS) attacks using
botnets and malicious software are
often referred to as high tech crime
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.afp.gov.au/
Electronic Frontiers Australia Inc
EFA is a non-profit national
organisation representing internet
users concerned with on-line freedoms
and rights. EFA’s major objectives
are to protect and promote the
civil liberties of users and operators
of computer based communications
systems such as the internet, to
advocate the amendment of laws and
regulations in Australia and elsewhere
(both current and proposed) which
restrict free speech and to educate
the community at large about the
social, political, and civil liberties
issues involved in the use of computer
based communications systems.
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.efa.org.au>
Our Weirdness Is Free
The logic of Anonymous – online army,
agent of chaos, and seeker of justice
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.
Am I Anonymous?
Learning how Anonymous works
means learning to be one. Gabriella
Coleman narrates her experience
of being in between worlds.
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.limn.it/
Why We Secretly Love Lulzsec
Elephant in room visible. Cans open.
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.risky.biz/lulzsec>
The Man Who Fell To Earth
Julian Assange’s Wikileaks
John Birmingham, The Monthly
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.themonthly.com.
Jacob Appelbaum Watches The
Does internet censorship interest you?
Ever worried about the state of
surveillance on the internet - and just
who has access to your private data?
So does Jacob Appelbaum!
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.lca2012.linux.
Underground: Tales of Hacking,
Madness and Obsession on the
Electronic Frontier, Suelette Dreyfus
Reed Books Australia, 1997
A book published in 1997 by Suelette
Dreyfus, researched by Julian Assange.
It describes the exploits of a group
of Australian, American, and British
black hat hackers during the late
1980s and early 1990s, among them
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.gutenberg.org/
Cult of The Dead Cow
Based in Lubbock, Texas, CULT OF
THE DEAD COW (cDc) is the most
influential computer underground
group in the world. The cDc alumni list
reads like a Who’s Who of hacking and
includes a former Presidential advisor
on internet security, among others.
The group is further distinguished by
publishing the longest running e-zine
on the internet [est. 1984], stretching
the limits of the First Amendment,
and fighting anyone or any government
that aspires to limit free speech.
Accessed Nov 2012 <www.cultdeadcow.com>
FURTHER READING & RELEVANT WEBSITES