The Anonymous computer hacker collective has mounted what it is calling "Operation Blitzkrieg" to attack neo-Nazis in the new year.
In addition to disabling a number of Web sites associated with the National Democratic Party (NPD), an extreme-right political party in Germany, the hackers launched a new site, nazi-leaks.net, listing hundreds of people's names captured from other extreme-right sites.
The lists include complete names and, in many cases, e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of people who, for instance, have visited, communicated or done business with a variety of Web sites, such as the far-right Thor Steinar clothing shop or who have contributed to the NPD.
Most critical responses
Also included are names and contact details of people who have written for the Junge Freiheit (Boys Freedom) newspaper.
Reactions to the Anonymous attacks have drawn mostly criticism, largely for violating people's data privacy.
Simone Rafael from the anti-Nazi Web forum, netz-gegen-nazis.de, said it was good "to remove the (Nazi) filth from the Net for few days." But he criticized the move to publish personal data on the Internet without permission.
"If some extreme right-winger were do to this, we'd be furious, too," Rafael told Deutsche in an e-mail.
Thomas Hoeren, a legal media professor at the University of Münster referred to the hackers' assault as "mean" and said such "data theft is punishable by law." But the problem, he added, is finding the people because they operate anonymously.
"This attack shows an enormous insensitivity for personal protection, even if these people are from the extreme right and you don't agree with their views," Hoeren told Deutsche Welle, adding that the action represented a complete disrespect for Net ethics. "It can unfairly ruin reputations."
Even come Anonymous members disapproved of the move. The Hamburg wing of the hacker group said it was not involved and called the action a "bad idea."
"Due to the structure of Anonymous, there are different groups and cells working under the Anonymous label with lots of different goals and motives," the group wrote in an e-mail response. "In our view, the best way to handle people like Nazis is with ridicule and education."
Dominik Boecker, an IT lawyer in Cologne, also condemned the hackers' move to steal and publish personal data, although he supports peoples' right to operate anonymously in the Internet.
Boecker's lesson to take away from this hack: companies and organizations need to protect their data better, and users need to think twice about whom they supply data and what sort of data it is.
"This hack is just as illegal as the hack on the Sony customer database," he told Deutsche Welle. "It's a misuse of anonymity."
Author: John Blau
Editor: Cyrus Farivar