Anonymous is one heck of a dangerous hactivist group. The collective has managed to break into and disseminate thousands of classified and downright dirty emails and records, take down dozens of major sites, all the while managing to be pretty much unstoppable.

But new evidence from a failed attack on the Vatican shows just how the supposedly leaderless organization operates.

The attack on the Vatican was a 25 day seige designed to disrupt the visit of the Pope to Madrid for World youth Day. Traffic to the Vatican’s website was 34 times greater than average, but the servers were able to cope with the strain.

But the interesting part about the attack is that, for most of the time, Anonymous wasn’t attacking. It was investigating.

Computer forensics show that a small group of individuals, who are probably skilled hackers, spent 19 of the 25 days searching the site for any holes that could be exploited to break into the system. Only when this strategy failed did Anonymous progress with the Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack against the vatican, meaning that all those DDoS attacks we’ve seen are probably just because Anonymous couldn’t get in to steal information.

When trying to crack the system failed, Anonymous turned to Facebook and its cloud of willing participants, then launched a DDoS attack. As said Cole Stryker, an expert on the internet imageboard 4Chan, which seems to have a significant crossover with Anonymous: “Anonymous is a handful of geniuses surrounded by a legion of idiots.”

Basically, the evidence shows that Anonymous is a small group of hackers cloaking themselves in the veil of thousands of other people. Anonymous isn’t nearly so anarchic nor leaderless as it seems to be.

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