by Ned Lewis
Lizard Squad, Guardians of Peace, Anonymous—these may sound like gamer tags but, in fact, they are the names of shadowy hacker syndicates. These hacker groups are made up of primarily younger people who, for the most part, never come into physical contact with one another. Instead, they keep in touch through internet chat rooms and Twitter accounts, making them extremely difficult to track. One hacker group could conceivably have members from several different continents.
On Nov. 22, 2014, the hacker group Guardians of Peace gained access to classified information on Sony Entertainment’s computer system. They exposed much of what they had uncovered online over the next several days, including embarrassing emails between employees and plot details of upcoming Sony pictures.
This information dump was accompanied by threats of violence against Sony and any movie theater that planned to screen “The Interview,” which was originally scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.
The story revolves around an assassination plot on Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. Sony made the controversial decision to pull the movie’s release from theaters. President Obama called the cancellation “a mistake” and said that the decision to pull the film could be viewed as a victory for the so called Guardians of Peace.
North Korea denies involvement with the attack, although the country did praise it as “a righteous deed.” After analyzation of code, the FBI determined that North Korea orchestrated the Sony hack.
Lizard Squad’s activities have been, so far, more benign than the violent threats of the Guardians of Peace. Recently, the group hinted at responsibility for temporarily shutting down both Instagram and Tinder.
The group claimed responsibility for shutting down the Microsoft and Sony PlayStation online gaming networks over the holiday season, the busiest time of year for the gaming industry.
Lizard Squad also hacked the booking page of the Malaysia Airlines website and put up a page that read, “404—Plane Not Found.” Within the last year, Malaysia Airlines has lost two aircraft, one of which has still not been located.
The punishment for such hacks can include both community service and long periods of jail time. When asked for a motive over Twitter, an anonymous 22-year-old claiming to be a member of Lizard Squad answered, “because we can.”
Last month, an 18-year-old member of Lizard Squad was arrested in England. He is accused of being a part of the attacks on Microsoft and PlayStation over Christmas. He could face jail time.
Some hacker groups claim that their activities are motivated by the preservation of free speech. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the group Anonymous vowed to wage cyber war on jihadist websites.
Anonymous has recently succeeded in taking several websites down temporarily. Whatever their motives, in our increasingly technology-dependent society, hackers are a force to be reckoned with.