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Study: Anonymous hacktivists not very anonymous

Research from the University of Twente suggests that many of the members of Anonymous, the hacktivists who attacked PayPal and other sites that have constrained WikiLeaks' activities, are easily identifiable.

Few have neutral views about the actions of Anonymous, the group of hacktivists that has allegedly turned the Web sites of such large brands as PayPal and MasterCard into hobbling dodderers.

Many are fascinated by the idea that a very loose grouping of random individuals across the world can, in such a sprightly manner, disrupt the working of large organizations.

And yet the question arises as to how anonymous these folks really are.

Already, one 16-year-old Dutch hacktivist has already been arrested for his alleged part in money-moving disruptions.

And, speaking of Holland, the University of Twente there has just performed a piece of research that revealed to them that Anonymous members are readily identifiable.

The researchers took a close look at the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) software used by Anonymous and concluded that, if an Anonymous member uses this software from his or her own machine, their identity becomes knowable.

"The current attack technique can therefore be compared to overwhelming someone with letters, but putting your address at the back of the envelop (sic)," says the researchers' report.

The report also warns that, if anonymization networks such as Tor are not employed, the members of Anonymous can be traced for months after an attack has been launched.

For itself, it appears that Anonymous may have now turned to YouTube to explain its ethos and its actions. It seems keen for its members not to be despised.

For many, it is, at least, heartening to see that so many young people (one imagines that a considerable tranche of Anonymous are those who are still young enough to enjoy the notion of ideals) care about something rather than, as it so often appears, nothing.

However, some will wonder whether, after the publication of this Dutch research, the University of Twente might itself enjoy something of a denial of service, just so that certain members of Anonymous can perform a robust test of the researchers' conclusions.