- By Sulome Anderson<p> Sulome Anderson is a recent alumna of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and a feature writer with the Daily Star, an English-language newspaper in Beirut. </p>
Members of the amorphous hacker collective known as "Anonymous" released a video on YouTube Tuesday warning Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy that he risks cyberwarfare unless he relinquishes his claim to extrajudicial powers.
In the video, titled Anonymous #OpEgypt, a figure wearing the group’s signature Guy Fawkes mask threatens cyberattacks against the Egyptian government as well as Morsy personally:
"Dr Morsy has repeatedly shown his lack of care about the core values of democracy…Now, he is gradually grasping more and more authoritarian power in his hands…To Dr. Morsy: Anonymous will not sit by and watch you washing away what thousands of Egyptians got killed and injured for…when you ignore this message, not only will we attack your organizations and websites; Anonymous will make sure you stand exposed against your people as well as the international community…we are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Expect us."
This isn’t Anonymous’ first warning to the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Egyptian government. In a video released on Nov. 7, the group announced that it would shut down the official Brotherhood website; a threat which was carried out a few days later.
Anonymous played an important role in the original 2011 Egyptian uprising against then-president Hosni Mubarak, when it successfully targeted a number of government websites and provided technical support to activists during a government-instituted Internet blackout.
Anonymous’ other recent notable attempt at targeted "hacktivism" in the Middle East occurred during the conflict in Gaza earlier this month, when it claimed to have defaced 10,000 Israeli websites and released the personal data of 5,000 Israeli government officials in a press statement. Israeli officials confirmed that the government had deflected over 44 million cyberattacks, but maintained that only one website was briefly shut down.
Cyberattacks have emerged as a popular form of activism in recent Middle Eastern conflicts, especially the Syrian uprising, which has prompted hacking attempts by pro and anti-regime groups. In August, hackers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad targeted Reuters and Al Jazeera, while an opposition group released what they claimed were over 3,000 personal emails between Assad and his wife in March.
Although it’s unclear how much damage Anonymous and other cyberactivists have actually inflicted on the governments and institutions they target, anyone who has ever had their computer freeze at an inconvenient moment can sympathize with what’s potentially in store for Morsy. Given the protests currently blazing across Egypt, it’s hard to imagine a more inopportune time for him to experience technical difficulties.