We can see more people in rallies, protests and all other kinds of rebellious practices over the minutest issue today. Such activism brings more problems than solutions because no one addresses serious issues properly. As a result of the protests, silent protests take place digitally in the form of digital vandalism – hacktivism.

What is a Hacktivism?

You can look at hacktivism as the practice of misusing a computer, a network, or any kind of digital space for a personal bias. A person who indulges in such activities is known as a hacktivist.

This bias is their own opinion towards something religious or political and is driven by personal opinion rather than facts. Since they are using it for personal gain and driven by misdirected motivation, it can be to protest a way of doing something in real life or on the internet.

For example: a hacktivist organization/person may choose to hack and violate a webpage or digital space displaying views the same as the hacktivist’s personal opinion.

Hacktivism gives rise to a new wave of digital activism by playing politics behind the screen. However, hacktivism is not exactly on the right side of the law and hacktivists are aware of what is illegal and what is not.

What is a Hacktivist?

Individuals with the solid technical knowledge of hacking techniques and the misdirected motivation of ill-informed / biased activists are known as hacktivists. Hacktivists are usually individuals but can also scale up to teams and organizations.

Hacktivists work in groups and organizations usually anonymously. Organizations like ‘LulzSec’ and ‘Anonymous’ are examples of hacktivist organizations.

Additionally, a hacktivist is a hacker that uses all the techniques, strategy and tools of a black hat hacker. Hacktivists even use their skills for the same purposes as black hat hackers.

A hacktivist would go all out destroying or opposing what they do not like personally. It would include activities such as defacing a website with views opposing to theirs. They would display a clear and loud message of what they want to show to the audience of that site.

Another kind of activity would be using a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack to damage access to that site or deactivate it.

However, DDoS attacks are illegal in most countries including the USA and UK. That said, it is debatable to this date about the nature of its legality.

This is because it can be seen as a protest and a way of protecting their own free speech. It is a grey area in some countries and downright illegal in others.

Hacks used by Hacktivists

Hacktivism is not just a protest or a DDoS attack and it includes a whole variety of actions. Like black hat hacking, a hacktivist activity is illegal and morally wrong. Let’s explore some of the types of activities that can be considered as a hacktivist activity:

  • Altering the backend code of a government site to oppose their view. Users visiting the site and using the features would be getting error messages, malicious viruses, and the like.
  • Geo-bombing is the practice of revealing the geo-origin of videos on YouTube. Hacktivists use the practice of Geo-bombing to expose the people behind those videos commonly political prisoners, or even human rights activists.
  • Anonymous blogging: Anonymous blogging is the practice of being able to speak and blog about issues that might lead to arrest or personal harm. Anonymous blogging is usually done against oppressive governments or human rights violators who could harm the person if they knew who spoke out.
  • Information leaks: A hacktivist group or individual may also indulge in leaking private info the public to defame organizations or reveal the truth. A leak like this would ideally be to expose the truth behind an organization’s good side face. WikiLeaks is one such site that regularly leaks data.

Famous hacktivism events

There have been several spectacular and large scaled hacktivist events in the recent past and throughout the history of internet. These are example of such events.

  • The hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’ leaked information in and out of Iran during the 2009 Iran elections.
  • Anonymous’s signature mask- A Guy Fawkes mask is something people wear as an annual event on November 5. They march in support of ‘Anonymous’ in cities like London and Washington DC. It is known as the Million Mask March.
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment also suffered a hacktivist hack leaking all of their unreleased and upcoming movies as well as employee personal info. Over 100 TB of information was wrongfully accessed and leaked by the group responsible – Guardians of Peace (GOP).
  • The cyber-attack across large organizations such as Amazon, The Wall Street Journal, Twitter, Reddit and The New York Journal is widely known. The attack took place in 2016, and Anonymous and New World Hackers claimed responsibility. They attacked the cyberspace at such a large scale to protest the internet access block for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.

Final Word

Hacktivists are usually anonymous and prefer to act on large scale events to send a message. They are not into the credit card stealing practice unless it sends a message to the group of people they find offensive.

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