Old and New

Old and New

© Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

© Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

Article from Issue 186/2016
Author(s):

In December 2015, the Hacktivist group Anonymous declared war on US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, citing outrage over Trump's disparaging comments about Muslims and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. The group launched a denial-of-service attack on the TrumpTower.com website, online presence for the bombastic billionaire's signature real estate development, and took it offline temporarily. They also broke into his cell phone and exposed some voicemail messages from journalists.

In December 2015, the Hacktivist group Anonymous declared war on US Presidential candidate Donald Trump, citing outrage over Trump's disparaging comments about Muslims and his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. The group launched a denial-of-service attack on the TrumpTower.com website, online presence for the bombastic billionaire's signature real estate development, and took it offline temporarily. They also broke into his cell phone and exposed some voicemail messages from journalists.

The attacks didn't seem to have much affect on the candidate's campaign. Trump continued to draw large crowds and win primary victories. Then, another YouTube video appeared on March 4, apparently from a rival faction within Anonymous that was dissatisfied with the skills and choices of the first group. The much-doctored voice of a speaker behind the familiar Guy Fawkes mask states, "You may remember me as the one who organized the complete shutdown of Anonymous Operations, a branch of Anonymous that successfully waged cyberwar against Turkey, Hungary, CloudFlare, and Donald Trump. You may think I silenced these hackers as a Donald Trump supporter, but that is far from the truth. In fact [the attack on] Trump is the only thing they accomplished that we admired." The new group said it was renewing the attack on Trump, and not just as a war but as a "total war."

I'm certainly no fan of Donald Trump, but I'm also not a fan of cyber warfare and the silencing of politicians, no matter how outrageous their ideas. If you asked me to place a bet, I would say I don't think these new attacks are going to have much effect. Why? For one thing, the web does not really appear to be so critical to the Trump campaign. Candidates use websites to raise money, and Trump isn't raising any money – he's spending his own money. Another use for a candidate's website is to provide detailed policy papers, and Trump doesn't seem to have many detailed policies. Other candidates have been brought down by personal secrets made public or inappropriate comments revealed to the world, but it is difficult to imagine what they might discover about Donald Trump that would actually change public perceptions in a meaningful way.

The Barack Obama campaigns of 2008 and 2012 were known for a kind of Internet fluency that, according the experts, heralded a new approach to presidential campaigns for a new century. Donald Trump actually reverses that presumed tide of history by putting the emphasis back on conventional media forms like cable television. His deft use of Twitter notwithstanding, Trump is able to tell his story through conventional media because he actually treats conventional media as if it were social media. A stump speech, an interview, a sound bite from a candidate forum – Donald Trump makes the mainstream TV seem a little like his own personal flame blog, with a few recurring ideas and lots of space for rants about things (and people) he doesn't like. Who needs Facebook when you can make the news networks behave like your Facebook account?

We don't know how this current Anonymous faction will pursue its "total war," but one thing is certain: To stop Trump, they'll need a lot more than a phone hack and a denial-of-service attack on his website.

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