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When a headless organization attacks itself, change is in the air.

While Sony is busy pointing the finger at the hacker group Anonymous for the on-going PSN and SOE hacks, Anonymous has problems of its own. This weekend AnonOps, an IRC network where some of the members congregate and plan operations, found itself under a denial-of-service attack. That attack finally ended with a number of its IRC servers being taken over.

The culprit: one of their own, a former IRC Operator (IRCop) named “Ryan.” Depending on who you believe, Ryan was power-hungry and wanted control over AnonOps for himself, or he was tired of the autocracy of the few Anonymous members who made up the group’s loose leadership structure…

The story is far from clear, and may never be, but the fact of the matter is that a good number of the IRC servers used by AnonOps were seized in the attack, and one of the most popular channels was all but shut down. Ryan also owns a number of AnonOps and Anonymous-related domain names, as well.

This schism in leadership at AnonOps is due to two big issues: one of power, and the other of authority. Some believe that Ryan favored a more “prove your mettle” approach to internet activism, where people had to prove they were worthwhile and actually had a cause worth attacking for before they could leverage tools like the infamous Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) denial-of-service tool. LOIC is the utility used to control botnets and give them targets to attack. At AnonOps, virtually anyone could come in, tell the LOIC who to target next, and just sit back and wait for the attack.

The second issue was leadership: a number of Anonymous members argued that the owners of the AnonOps IRC servers and their tools were starting to get a little power-mad as their names were circulated around the Internet. Some members accused the small group of making all of the decisions about who Anonymous would attack, when, and what operations they would engage in without involving the rest of the group in them.

Whether or not they had the right to act as leadership is up for debate. Most of the people in the tiny group of IRC moderators at AnonOps were the people responsible for paying to keep the domainsregistered and the servers up.

What this means for the group is unclear, and it’s very likely that the amorphous and fluid nature of a group like Anonymous means that any lack of specific leadership will ultimately go unnoticed by the larger collective. At the same time, unless something changes, AnonOps will likely shutter and the group of IRC operators that used it will be forced to gather somewhere else to plan their activities.

via Ars Technica