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Anonymous OS: Worth the risk?

Possibly from within the ranks of the hacktivist collective comes an Ubuntu-based operating system meant for "educational purposes." Or maybe we'll learn it's packed with Trojans.

Anonymous OS Live is a Ubuntu-based operating system.
Anonymous OS Live is a Ubuntu-based operating system.

The hacking group Anonymous may or may not have launched its very own operating system.

Dubbed Anonymous OS Live, the operating system, which is available as a free download on Sourceforge, is based on the Ubuntu version of Linux. According to a description on the Sourceforge page, the operating system is designed for "educational purposes" and can also be used to check "the security of Web pages."

The people behind the software have set up a Tumblr page providing news and updates on the software. Those folks yesterday announced that the OS had been downloaded over 4,600 times.

What's not immediately clear is just who it is behind the operating system. Anonymous has no central hierarchy, and in many cases, parts of the group break off from the main sector to engage in their own activities. In other words, there is no easy way to know if this operating system has been endorsed by the whole group, or is the brainchild of just a few members.

That has been made abundantly clear in a tweet sent out yesterday, and another this morning, by @Anonops, a Twitter account that is believed to speak for Anonymous. @Anonops wrote that the operating system "is fake" and "wrapped in trojans."

Whoever's promoting the OS sought to allay fears.

"Please people, in our world, in Linux and opensource world, there is not virus (sic)," the people behind Anonymous OS Live wrote this morning in response. "If any user believe that Anonymous-OS 'is wrapped in trojans' or 'backdoored OS by any Law enforcement Company or Hacker,' please don't download it! But don't mislead the world that Linux is dangerous and has trojans!"

As of this writing, Anonymous OS Live has been downloaded nearly 21,000 times. It has been recommended by 36 people, while 22 have said that it's best to steer clear.

Still, the folks behind the operating system don't want anyone using it for illegal purposes. In an "about" page, Anonymous writes that users should not "attack" Web pages, adding that "the user has total responsibility for any illegal act."

Update 6:01 a.m. PT to include more details.