A faction of the infamous hacktivist collective Anonymous appears to be branching off from the group's social responsibility mission and getting into the celebrity snooping business.
In recent days, the faction, which calls itself Hollywood Leaks, has posted cell phone numbers of celebrities, nude photos of a rapper, and a confidential copy of a movie script to the Internet.
Anonymous is known for the "Guy Fawkes" masks occasionally worn by its members and for launching cyber attacks loosely related to free speech. Notches on its belt include attacks on Scientology, Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco, government contractor HBGary Federal, and Egyptian government servers during the uprisings in that country. The recent rummaging of celebs' cell phone and email accounts, though, looks more like the work of star snoops than hacktivists.
That's not to say that Hollywood Leaks doesn't pay lip service to a higher purpose for its mischief. In a video declaration posted on YouTube, the splinter posse declared it was wresting control of the media from “Jews” and "vampire and Scientology pastors." The group later sort of recanted its "the time of Jew-controlled media is over" remark declaring in a tweet: "LOL at people calling us anti-semites[.] Its for the LULZ. Get over it."
LULZ is hacker speak for "just for laughs," although the laughs are usually at somebody else's expense.
A more coherent explanation was given to Gawker by someone who claimed to be member of the merry band. "We're simply here to facilitate the free flow of information from a place which was previously over looked, Hollywood," the member told the entertainment website in an email.
Since it arrived on the hacking scene, Hollywood Leaks has published cell phone numbers for racing car driver Helio Castronves, dancer Corky Ballas, as well as other celebs, such as Jenny Garth, Chris Judd, DJ Drama, Miley Cyrus, and Lil Jon.
The hackers also broke into the email account of an actor in the cast of the upcoming Tom Cruise vehicle "Rock of Ages," according to Gawker, where they found a confidential copy of the movie's script and posted it to the Internet.
In addition, the group hijacked the Twitter account of rapper Kreayshawn and, while she was attending the MTV music awards, broadcast nude photos of the singer nicked from her cell phone to 300,000 of her followers on the microblogging service, Gawker reported.
Singer and dancer Julianne Hough also was reportedly targeted by the group. Health insurance information and an unreleased album were clipped from her phone, as well as some photos.
Since celebrities are accustomed to invasions of their privacy by all sorts of star parasites, these cyber snoops will probably be more annoying to the glitterati than anything else. Still, it's probably a good idea for anyone who might be in the crosshairs of this latest wild bunch to turn on two-factor authentication for their Gmail accounts and purge any photos on the old cell phone that they wouldn't want to show to mom.