On rare occasions, members of the hacker collective Anonymous speak out as individuals. Recently, a member known as Commander X (his real name is Christopher Doyon) granted the Montreal Gazette in Canada an interview in which he revealed the hackvists claim to have access to every federal government database.
For weeks the Gazette compiled encrypted emails from Doyon, who is in Canada living in "underground railroad"-style safe houses while on the run from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, just to set up the interview. The Q&A reveals some insight into how Anonymous came to be as strong as it is now, leadership style, public perception of online information safety, and next steps for the collective. Here are a few choice quotes from the Q&A:
- There’s a really good argument at this point that we might well be the most powerful organization on Earth. The entire world right now is run by information. Our entire world is being controlled and operated by tiny invisible 1s and 0s that are flashing through the air and flashing through the wires around us. So if that’s what controls our world, ask yourself who controls the 1s and the 0s? It’s the geeks and computer hackers of the world.
- The average Anon is not like me, working 12 hours a day dedicating their life to this. He’s an IT guy or a cable installer with a few hours to spare and he wants to be told what to do.
- I think the general public is beginning to learn the value of information.
- If you want to call me a terrorist, I have no problem with that. But I would ask you, “Who is it that’s terrified?” If it’s the bad guys who are terrified, I’m really super OK with that. If it’s the average person, the people out in the world we are trying to help who are scared of us, I’d ask them to educate themselves, to do some research on what it is we do and lose that fear.
- Right now we have access to every classified database in the U.S. government. It’s a matter of when we leak the contents of those databases, not if. You know how we got access? We didn’t hack them. The access was given to us by the people who run the systems.
- Now people are leaking to Anonymous and they’re not coming to us with this document or that document or a CD, they’re coming to us with keys to the kingdom, they’re giving us the passwords and usernames to whole secure databases that we now have free reign over. … The world needs to be concerned.
Gizmodo's techie analysis of this latter claim is that it's "absurd" and "an outrageously ambitious catch." It points to how it would be "too vast to be possible" for someone from every government agency to leak sensitive information to Anonymous. Still, even having information of any sort from some agencies gives Anonymous some bite to its bark.
Of late, Anonymous has been relatively quiet after recent arrests, which Doyon acknowledges has had a "chilling effect" on the organization.