The iconic hacktivist movement Anonymous has become an amorphous entity that defies legal and philosophical definition, say experts.
In a panel discussion at the RSA conference, a group of law enforcement officials, IT security providers and investigative journalists concluded that despite occasional manipulation from criminal groups, the movement remains largely political driven by young and idealistic users.
Panelists noted that the loose structure of Anonymous and the groups within it tend to centre on a small group of highly-skilled individuals, who influence and direct a much larger group of less-advanced, often younger individuals.
Meanwhile, those who influence the group are believed to view it as a political movement, the panel argued.
But on occasion organised crime groups will recruit individual members or attempt to direct campaigns for their own benefit.
"The age range does change and you have professionals that take part in this and they have a track record both good and bad in IT," noted Eric Strom, unit chief of the FBI's cyber initiative and resource fusion unit.
Officials noted that much of the activity in Anonymous operations is not carried out by highly-skilled users, but rather by younger individuals who believe they are acting as part of a political function.
The key to quelling the nefarious side of the group, say the experts, is to understand and connect with those younger users and their motivations.
Journalist and panel member Misha Glenny suggested that officials get a better understanding of the views and policies on information and data sharing that lure younger people into Anonymous.
"These are still kids and often they are getting into these organisations before they develop their moral compass," he said.
"We have a lot of talent out there and we should start to think of developing methods so we can find incentives to channel those talents before it happens."
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