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Enter the contras

These possible contra-hacktivista "patriots" seem to be even less publicly chatty or identifiable than Anonymous, so far lacking even a visible badge or slogan, though they have apparently taken to using bots to flood the Anonymous chatrooms with jabber ("You have failed your people", "Cooperation is worthless" etc).

Panda Labs has managed to identify how Operation:Payback's apparently limited resources – the LOIC Hivemind volunteer botnet typically has only a few hundred machines attached – achieve their results. Some members of Anonymous are apparently muscling up the collective's DDoS using illegal, non-voluntary botnets they have created by infecting other people's machines with malware.

The security analysts have an interview with one such cowboy, who is herding a claimed 1,300-machine botnet, who added that a friend of his also contributes a 30,000-strong zombie herd. This individual said he had built up his net by distributing malware via torrents, and that thus far he had not profited personally from it – but that he intended to make money from botnets in future. He (we're guessing probably he, but we don't know) claimed to be 19 years old.

The online battles have focused principally on Wikileaks and its spokesman Assange (now jailed in London facing an extradition request from Sweden, which wants to speak to him in connection with alleged sexual offences against two women). However it isn't always remembered that in fact the principal actor against US government secrecy was not Wikileaks but Bradley Manning, the American soldier who allegedly supplied almost all Wikileaks' interesting information.

The channel Manning allegedly chose to use to distribute his vast caches of information lifted from the US government's classified networks is, in fact, relatively unimportant. He might have chosen simply to place it all on a server himself: suitable advertising in the right fora would probably have ensured that it would soon be downloaded and mirrored way beyond the US authorities' ability to suppress. Alternatively he might have chosen an established channel such as Cryptome.

Instead, the rogue army private allegedly chose Wikileaks, which has propelled the organisation and Assange to global fame – while Manning has become almost forgotten by everyone except the US military police. But not entirely: the city council of Berkeley in California is to vote next Tuesday on a resolution which would declare him a hero and call for his release, the AP reports.

Councillor Bob Meola, who drafted the resolution, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Manning is a patriot and deserves a medal. ®

Bootnotes

*Needless to say our source on this and other such matters remains Anonymous. Apparently your correspondent's flagging-up of a spelling mistake by this individual is, perhaps fairly, regarded as a low blow – it was the only typo in the email, putting the missive well up in the top bracket of those we've received from more or less any source.

We are also asked whether el Reg has a strong editorial policy "against this [Anonymous] movement". As to the rights and wrongs of the matter the Reg takes no stance - but as a news outfit we have to admit that we're quite pleased to have such a splendid and colourful online scrap to report on.

Register management, having witnessed the disasters befalling other online organisations which have angered Anonymous, would like to point out that Lewis Page is an unimportant, low-paid employee who is in no way representative of the Reg as a whole. Only a certain misguided sympathy for his cripplingly expensive alcoholism and many other personal problems has led to his continued employment, and they would ask that this charitable impulse not be punished too harshly.

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