POLITICS

Legion's Juvenile Hackers Don't Know What They Are Doing Or Why

There's no method in their madness.

13/12/2016 5:08 PM IST | Updated 13/12/2016 5:43 PM IST
UIG via Getty Images

There's a serial hacker on the prowl and you could be the next target. They call themselves Legion and behave like a poor imitation of Anonymous, the global hacktivism network. "We are Legion," they say, trying to reference Anonymous, whose motto goes, "We are Anonymous, we are legion, we don't forgive, we don't forget. Expect us".

Legion is a cringeworthy copy, like a B-grade Bhojpuri remake of a Hollywood classic.

Aesthetic apart, what is Legion trying to do? What is their social, political or technological motivation? Are they just out to show up poor cybersecurity? A reminder of the vulnerability of our online lives, from our public tweets to our bank logins, is welcome. How does that merit defacing a woman journalist's Twitter account with sexist abuse?

Hacking and defacement are two different things. There are countless ethical hackers out there who hack only to expose security vulnerabilities, and they let you know. Google and Facebook pay such hackers handsomely.

If cybersecurity is not the agenda, is it political? Not quite, they say. Having hacked and defaced Twitter accounts of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party, its various social media spokespersons, journalists Barkha Dutt and Ravish Kumar, Legion wants us to believe there is no political agenda. Tweets Legion put out from these account were quite political in nature, accusing the Congress of corruption, seeming to defend demonetisation. Yet Legion says they are not out on a political agenda. They will attack BJP too, "when the time is right," whatever that means.

Meanwhile, someone called #Legion, with the twitter handle @legion_h4x, has put out a data dump on the BJP. Some Congressmen are having a field day with it. In an interview with Factor Daily, Legion denied having any Twitter handle of their own.

They have targeted Vijay Mallaya, so is their agenda to wage war against corruption and crony capitalism? They promise to target Lalit Modi too. But so far we have not seen any single email or any other revelation that hurts these figures. It's minor inconvenience. And how is Ravish Kumar a target or corruption?

In 2012, Anonymous India had hacked websites of state-owned telecom company BSNL and communications minister Kapil Sibal to protest growing internet censorship. That's the kind of hacktivism that comes with a purpose. You may disagree with the political agenda. When a hacktivist groups targets Fox News in the US, and you are a Fox News fan, you could disagree with the hacktivist group and take sides.

You could also have two views on Wikileaks. You could support Julian Asssange's claim that the information put out by Wikileaks is of public interest.

But Legion doesn't seem to know what it is doing, why it is doing this. In their interviews, their answer to everything is that they are potheads. They seem to be interested in sounding cool, sounding like hackers, imitating Anonymous, pretending to be India's Julian Assange. What is their real agenda? They are not sure.

Here is an excerpt from their Factor Daily interview:

Question: What is your end game?
The pothead part isn't too bad
I mean, we used to be pot heads
WE just don't smoke as mucha nymore

Question: What is your end game, if there is one?
End game?
Die from an overdose of LSD combined with DMT on the peaky ranges of the himalayas
After saying: F**k this shit, we all gotta die sometime 😉
We don't have a purpose
We just expose people that pop up
As potentially interesting

In another interview, they said their agenda was to put out "classified" information in the public domain. That's defensible only if such "classified" information is in public interest. Mindlessly putting out people's private emails – even those of companies and political parties – is simply an invasion of privacy, and using the word classified for private doesn't give your act any moral legitimacy.

With the ability to hack comes power. Power is dangerous in the hands of despots. In the hands of Legion, it is a caricature. It's plain silly and juvenile. The way Legion are going about their business inspires more amusement than fear. They come across as seven year olds wearing a red cape and running around the garden, waiting for the world to clap in awe of Superman.

That's how sad we are. Like the government's economic policy and the opposition's strategies, even our hackers don't know what they are doing. Following the standard protocol of such hacktivism, they say they are desperate to be arrested. Saying such things makes them feel like heroes. If they were to be found and arrested, no one would mourn for them. There is no heroism in being a wannabe.

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