Responding to a recent report from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization condemning Anonymous, the online "hacktivist" group has issued a public response warning the global organization not to challenge it.
Claiming that the NATO report singled it out as a threat to "government and the people," Anonymous defended some of its recent actions in the name of freedom and dissent. In its message (Google cached version), it also asserted that NATO fears the group not because it's a "threat to society," but because it's a "threat to the established hierarchy."
Issued last month by Lord Joplin, general rapporteur of NATO, the report warned member nations about the rising threat of "hacktivism," or carrying out cyberattacks for political purposes. Singling out Anonymous, NATO described several of the group's most recent actions, including the distributed denial-of-service attacks against MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, Amazon, and others that had cut off services for WikiLeaks.
Noting that Anonymous has become more sophisticated, the NATO report cautioned that it could hack into sensitive government, military, and corporate information and described a strong response against the group.
"Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership," said the report. "It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths. The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted."
In its response, Anonymous tried to soften its stance in parts by saying that it doesn't want to threaten anyone's way of life or terrorize any nation. But it made clear its reaction to NATO's report.
"Finally, do not make the mistake of challenging Anonymous," warned Anonymous in its message. "Do not make the mistake of believing you can behead a headless snake. If you slice off one head of Hydra, ten more heads will grow in its place. If you cut down one Anon, ten more will join us purely out of anger at your trampling of dissent."
NATO's report also provided a larger look into the growing danger of cyberattacks and how governments should respond to them. In the report, Joplin asked the question of how NATO should react if one of its member nations was the victim of a cyberattack.
"Can one invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty after a cyber attack?" asked the report. "And what response mechanisms should the Alliance employ against the attacker? Should the retaliation be limited to cyber means only, or should conventional military strikes also be considered?
Both the U.S. and the U.K. have recently made their own positions clear--that they consider cyberwarfare another form of warfare, and one potentially subject to a response using conventional military weapons.