Anonymous threat to 'kill' Facebook a fake?

Facebook users might not have to learn what Guy Fawkes Day is after all. Then again, it might not hurt to keep an eye on the date.

The Internet has been abuzz for a couple days over a YouTube video purportedly from the hacker group Anonymous threatening to “destroy” Facebook on Nov. 5 in retaliation of its privacy policies. Anonymous appears to be disavowing the attack, although a recent Twitter post contends that what is being called Operation Facebook is real, although not all Anonymous members are taking part.

After the first English-language stories on the threat began appearing Aug. 9, tweets from the group’s AnonOps Twitter account began circulating, saying the group did not make the threat, Erik Mack reported in PCWorld.

“Don’t be silly. Important things are happening in the world to deal with quirks like #OpFacebook,” read one tweet.

Another admonished the media for reporting the threat, which it said was fake. “We don’t ‘kill’ the messenger,” it said (although in all-caps). “That’s not our style.”

Later, a tweet on the Anonymous Twitter feed stated, "#OpFacebook is being organised by some Anons. This does not necessarily mean that all of #Anonymous agrees with it."

Several security experts had suspected the threat was a fake, at least partly because the appearance of the video did not match Anonymous’ usual methods.

The video was posted July 16, but drew almost no attention until recently. Mack reported that several German and Spanish-language news outlets began running stories this week, eventually leading English-language sites to pick it up.

Jeremy Kirk of IDG News reported that the video had not been posted on Anonymous' Twitter feed or blog,

Rik Fergusen of TrendMicro, writing on the company’s blog, also noted that the Twitter profile associated with the Facebook threat appeared to be dormant — although, ironically, it has a Facebook page.

Fergusen also disputed some of the claims made in the video, such as that Facebook retains users’ information even if they have deleted it.

Security experts also doubted the nature of the threat. Anonymous has made a name for itself with distributed denial-of-service attacks and the theft of information via website hacks, but bringing down an operation the size of Facebook would be extremely difficult, they say.

The video shows a static shot of Anonymous’ logo while a digitally distorted voice claims Facebook is spying on people and giving information to governments, including “authoritarian governments such as Egypt and Syria." The voice urges people the "kill Facebook for the sake of your own privacy" on Nov. 5.

Guy Fawkes Day is observed in England on Nov. 5 in a tongue-in-cheek commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, a failed attempt by Fawkes and other conspirators to blow up Parliament while it was in session.

Guy Fawkes masks worn on that day (and featured in the movie “V for Vendetta”) have become a symbol for Anonymous.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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