On Flag Day – Tuesday, June 14 – the activist hacker group Anonymous launched its latest campaign, this time against the United States Federal Reserve Bank. Operation Empire State Rebellion, or #OpESR as it is known in the Twitterverse, is aimed at forcing Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to step down.
Anonymous and connected groups, including Lulzsec, are attacking the Federal Reserve for “systematically looting the country to enrich one-tenth of one-percent of the population.” The organizations threatened to hack Federal Reserve websites and send USD prices plummeting. They called on their members to resist the Federal Reserve System by organizing protests, trading in their United States Dollars for gold, and switching their remaining money out of large banks.
The first visible signs #OpESR started on Tuesday morning as Anonymous members, fanboys and sympathizers gathered in peaceful protest at Federal Reserve locations around the country. Anonymous simultaneously launched a social media campaign to spread its message and vague threats, leveraging multiple national and regional Twitter accounts.
The initiative comes in the middle of a recent hacking wave targeting videogame companies and government websites. A handful of Anonymous members were arrested in Turkey and Spain in the past weeks for organizing distributed denial of service attacks against government websites. Anonymous also called on its members to attack a Malaysian government website yesterday evening to protest government censorship.
It is likely that the Anonymous attack on the Fed is more bark than bite. Distributed denial of service attacks would have no effect on the value of the dollar and would definitely not persuade Bernanke to step down. Besides, a few nerdy-looking protesters at Federal Reserve Banks are nothing new and will not bring much attention to their cause. In fact, the total protester turnout at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was a whopping two people.
In the group’s first #OpESR YouTube video, Anonymous levies high charges against the central bank but fails to provide any evidence. A fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Federal Reserve seems to be at the bottom of this campaign. The Federal Reserve System has many responsibilities, especially since the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, but its main functions are to stabilize U.S. currency, strengthen the economy and promote full employment. Bernanke’s quantitative easing strategy may be controversial, but the Federal Reserve System has been instrumental in the country’s economic recovery and has increased its regulation of banking, credit institutions and Wall Street greed under the chairman. Besides, devaluing the dollar would cripple ordinary Americans, the same people that Anonymous claims to be trying to save.
Ultimately, Anonymous will fail to get Lulz, the laughter that from online humiliation, with #OpESR. A distributed denial of service attack, if pulled off, will only be a minor nuisance to the Fed. Anonymous may be plotting something a little more sinister but I do not believe a cyber attack to the Federal Reserve could have a meaningful effect on its policies or the value of the dollar. In my opinion Anonymous should leave the economy to the experts and go back to hacking video game companies that make products that are too difficult for them to beat.