What Does "We Are Legion" Mean For Anonymous & Why Does The Hacker Group Use The Phrase?

A Bahraini protester, wearing a mask of the anonymous movement, poses during a demonstration in solidarity with jailed freelance photographer Hussain Hubail in the village of Abu Saiba, west of Manama on October 25, 2013. Hubail, was arrested at Bahrain International Airport on August 1, 2013, and was accused of demonstrating illegally and misusing social networks, his lawyer said. AFP PHOTO/MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/Getty Images

When the New York Stock Exchange, The Wall Street Journal, and United Airlines all suffered outages last Friday, it did not take long for the conspiracy theories to ramp into full swing. Did hacktivist group Anonymous tweet a prediction of what was to come? When taking responsibility for a hack, Anonymous often uses one particularly cryptic message, but what does "We are Legion" really mean?

Officials have stated repeatedly that what happened at the stock exchange was the result of an internal error, not an outside attack, and that there was no evidence the three incidents were connected or that any hacking was involved. Naturally, that did not satisfy the more suspicious among us, especially after it was discovered that Anonymous tweeted the night before the systems' outages: "Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street." But the group has not claimed specific responsibility for the incident and didn't use their "legion" banner call this time around, suggesting they may not have been behind Friday's events.

So where does the phrase "We are Legion" come from? It's actually a biblical quote with some deeply sinister implications. In the Bible, Jesus comes upon a man possessed by a demon, and asks him "what is thy name," according to the King James version. The verses continue, "And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many."

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The phrase has been interpreted to mean that the demons in the man were working as one entity, which is a fitting parallel to the group that works independently to pursue the targets of their hacks yet falls together under a common mission.

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Anonymous obviously has no love for Wall Street; it helped foster the Occupy Wall Street movement back in 2011. That year, the group released a video in which they used the "legion" phrase to declare their disgust with what they view as corrupt corporations, government, and banks. The video ends with the closing statement. "We are Anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive, we do not forget. Wall Street, expect us."

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It seems likely that if Anonymous were involved with the NYSE hack, they would have definitively claimed responsibility by now. But it's certainly an idea that is not out of the question.

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