Denial-Of-Service Attacks As Civil Disobedience
The hacktivists of Anonymous may be accused of many things - such as immaturity or being run by a herd instinct. But theirs is the cyber equivalent of non-violent action or civil disobedience. It disrupts rather than damages. In challenging the credit card companies and the web hosts in this way, they are reminding these businesses that their brand reputation relies not only on how the state department sees them, but also on how they maintain their independence in the eyes of their users.
Absolutely, and well said. I can't say that I've ever made the connection before, but Bruce Schneier's take seems correct: DOS attacks are the digital equivalent of blocking access to a building1. That's an interesting idea that bears further consideration, if for no other reason that it requires people to think about "hacking" in a more sophisticated fashion.
As a side note, I'm regularly and vigorously annoyed by the bulk of "cybercrime" articles I come across; it seems like most writers thereof have educated themselves on the subject via repeated viewings of The Net and Golden Eye. So its heartening to see non-technical outlets making nuanced distinctions between the activities of Anonymous and generic hacking.
1 For non-technical folk playing along at home: The most popular DOS attack these days involves sending gigabytes of spurious connection requests to the servers which host a particular service, thus preventing legitimate users from making use of that service. Think of it as filling up a building's lobby so that no-one else can get in, more like a sit-in then just blocking the entrace. In any case it's a very apt analogy, one of the rare examples of a meatspace concept porting well to the online world.