Depending on your world view, November 5 might have significantly different meanings. To some, it was a day to hit the voting booth. But to some others, it was a day of direct action — a day, perhaps, to dismantle democracy as we know it.
Some members of hacktivist group Anonymous count themselves among the latter. Over the years, the leader-less global group has drawn inspiration from the film and graphic novel V for Vendetta. Those works center around an unsuccessful plot to blow up the British parliament on November 5, 1605 – and they’ve inspired a modern-day revolution.
Under Anonymous’ guidance, now November 5 is Global Hack Day online, launching of series of worldwide protests against government corruption known as the Million Mask March.
“Honestly, we are attacked so many times, so often, that the idea of Global Hack Day is kind of more hype than anything else,” said “pwrcycle,” a Bay-Area “ethical hacker” who professionally defends organizations against DDoS attacks. He says that the day is blown out of proportion by the media.
But he also says that the hype does lead to an awareness that might snap people out of complacency with their data. “People have a false sense of security,” he says. “They should wake up to find what kind of information can be gleamed for the technology that they are using.”
Online attacks from Anonymous started early in the day as the group began targeting the government of Singapore, a city-state that has notoriously strict laws about media and the internet. Global Hack Day also sparked major protests and cyber attacks in the Philippines and Australia.
Mobilizing in the name of transparency, against internet censorship, and corruption has long been a focus of Anonymous. Supporters often consider them modern-day Robin Hoods and protectors of freedom.
In the United States, real-life demonstrations in Washington D.C. started in the afternoon. That ultimately led to clashes between police and protestors, and at least one arrest. Many other cities like Dallas and New York City also saw big turn-outs.
While the group is unlikely to save to world from corruption overnight, Anonymous expert Biella Coleman told Fusion that she is thoroughly impressed with the show-of-force demonstrations taking place around the world. “It reminds me of what they accomplished in 2010 to protest PayPal and other companies when they refused to process WikiLeaks donations,” she said.
The Guy Fawkes masks that Anonymous has adopted only make the movement easy to transplant to any location, she adds. They can take that mask and “recast [Anonymous] in [many] ways—in places like Brazil, Turkey, and the Philippines… Anywhere where there is a struggle, or a perceived struggle for social and economic justice.”