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WSJ Chronicles History Of Hacker Vigilante Movement Behind 'Anonymous.'

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Newscom

The group is a collection of people -- mostly young men -- around the world who have rallied around the hacker ethic of open networks, but some of its members have started to steal information, which has alienated other members of the group, according to the account.

The story follows 19-year-old Martijn Gonlag in the Netherlands, who was once a member of the group, but was nabbed by authorities last December. Awaiting trial for crimes related to destroying computer networks, has now distanced himself from the group, and the online chat room that he runs suffers periodic online attacks from them.

Mr. Gonlag's role reversal provides a glimpse of the unruly hunt-or-be-hunted world underpinning a string of online attacks against major companies and government bodies--incidents that have sparked a digital manhunt by law-enforcement agencies in several countries.

One of the first public campaigns undertaken by the global group of anonymous hackers that brought it to wider public attention was its campaign against the Church of Scientology for its attempts to censor negative information about itself online.

Its campaign in December against Mastercard, Paypal and Visa for cutting off service to Wikileaks brought it to worldwide press attention, and brought in new members. Gonlag was one of those new recruits.

This February, the group showed that it was capable of harsh tactics when it attacked computer security firm HB Gary Federal's network, downloaded 70,000 internal e-mails and posted them all online.

According to the Journal:

The traffic included details of a proposed effort to gather information on critics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in an attempt to prove illegal activity by labor-union members. Mr. Barr said the initiative was only intended to show what information could be retrieved.

The attackers also exposed minutiae of Mr. Barr's marital issues. He said the personal communications were taken out of context.

Mr. Barr stepped down from his job in late February.

The group continues to operate at large, and maintains a Twitter account, while international la enforcement authorities try to track them down.