Its enemies include Al Qaeda, the Taliban and North Korea but now a new name has quietly been added to a list of threats the world’s most powerful military alliance, NATO, should reckon with – the Anonymous hacking group.

According to a report written by NATO Parliamentary Assembly General Rapporteur Lord Jopling, the Anonymous hacking group now poses a hazard that needs to be taken seriously. The views are his own, but will strike a chord with the anxieties of others within and around European governments.

“Observers note that Anonymous is becoming more and more sophisticated and could potentially hack into sensitive government, military, and corporate files,” Jopling said in the draft general report’s section on ‘hacktivism’.

“Today, the ad hoc international group of hackers and activists is said to have thousands of operatives and has no set rules or membership. It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths.”

The report notes the various targets Anonymous has hit at will in the last year, and its vague political aspirations, including support for the US pursuit of Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange.

Part of Jopling’s concern was simply the difficulty of defining cybersecurity for an organisation that takes in 28 countries with various cyberdefence capacities.

The organisation was also struggling to define what its founding principle - that of mutual self-defence - might mean when applied to cyberspace, a realm where the origin and purpose of attacks is not always easy to decipher.

Lacking a central leadership and organisation, Anonymous encapsulates the vague nature of many such cyber-threats. It has become notorious for self-styled campaigning attacks on ‘enemies’ as diverse as MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon, security company HBGary, various music companies including Sony, and even rock musician, Gene Simmons and the Church of Scientology. Its targets, then, are as diverse as its supporter’s interests.

“The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted,” predicted Jopling.

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