Wikileaks Attackers Motivated and Rational say Cybercrime Experts

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Cybercrime experts from the University of Alabama at Birmingham say Wikileaks website attackers are not hysterical or irrational, but rather a united group of passionate actors.

Gary Warner, director of computer forensics research at UAB wanted to know if the Anonymous attacks were the result of mass hysteria and "mob-like" behavior that can lean toward violence and lawlessness, or if the attacks could be viewed as "Expressive Crowd" behavior, spawned from "strong emotions, such as joy, excitement, anger, or fear."

The conclusion is attacks from Wikileaks defenders, against sites like Master Card, banking and other service websites, are not the result of frenzy or mass hysteria, lawlessnes or mob like behavior. According to Warner, “This is not a group acting irrationally.”

Warner, being interested in computer security, has been tracking the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on sites that include PayPal and others in the past days.

On his blog,"CyberCrime & Doing Time", Warner cites the mentality and motivation of leaders of Anonymous who have "instructed volunteer participants whose machines are being used to overwhelm targeted websites to deny their role by telling authorities that their computer must have fallen victim to a virus."

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With the help of understanding from criminologist John Sloan, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Justice Sciences at UAB, he explains the behavior of the Wikileaks cyber attackers is a collective behavior, characteristic of groups that unite to “make a difference.”

In this case, says Dr. Sloan, "like-minded members...are brought together by technologies unavailable to previous generations and are united to take out websites run by companies that the group feels support internet censorship.”

Warner says he has observed similar behavior in his research when nationalists rise up to defend their country, such as during political protests in Iran in 2009 and during the 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia.

“The DDoS attackers are very aware of what they are doing. This is not mass hysteria with participants in some kind of frenzy to act out,” Sloan says.

Warner says, "The question remains what the exit strategy will be for this crowd – will they grow bored and quit, will they grow more reckless and dangerous, or will they guide their members to more legal and socially acceptable behavior?”

He says one of the things that makes the Wikileaks cyber attackers unique is there is no tie to a particular country, though the Anonymous group shares the same thoughtfulness, passion and rational behavior seen when a group rises to defend its country.

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