What is hacktivism in information security

Hacktivism is the act of hacking, or breaking into a computer system, for a politically or socially motivated purpose. The individual who performs an act of hacktivism is said to be a hacktivist.

For the hacktivist, hacktivism is an Internet-enabled strategy to exercise civil disobedience. Acts of hacktivism may include website defacement, denial-of-service attacks (DoS), redirects, website parodies, information theft, virtual sabotage and virtual sit-ins.To perform such activities a hacktivist uses the same tools and techniques as a hacker.

Whether hacktivism is a crime may be debated. Hacktivism’s main goal is to bring issues to light and cause social change. It can also be considered activism because it achieves these goals in a relatively peaceful manner.

Hacktivism addresses a variety of acts that are active and passive – as well as violent and non-violent – and may be falsely interpreted as cyberterrorism. Hacktivism was originally coined to explain how electronic direct action elicits social change through blended programming expertise and critical thinking. Despite this, many perceive hacktivism as an attempt to fulfill undesirable political motives.

Groups like Anonymous are exploiting the power of modern technology for social protest and to promote political ideology. The behavior was observed for the first time in 1996 by a member of the famous group of hackers, the Cult of the Dead Cow, named Omega.

The availability of the Internet and the numerous social media have enhanced the diffusion the voice of hacktivism on a large scale. From recruiting to organizing the attacks, all is arranged online and the number of followers is virtually unlimited. A hacktivist is hidden in every one: Everyone has his or her personal perception of reality and everyone could feel the need to join in this new form of dissent. Another factor that has increased the consolidation of hacktivist movements is the deep economic crisis that has characterized the last decade.

Few examples of Hactivism:

Iran launches Shamoon

It did not take the Iranians too long to retaliate. In August 2012, the Saudi national oil and gas company, Saudi Aramco, had 30,000 of its computers infected with the Shamoon virus. This computer virus renders hard drives unusable by writing spurious data over the files stored on them.

An unknown Hacktivist group, Cutting Sword of Justice, claimed responsibility, but the Iranian state is widely believed to have been behind this highly sophisticated attack. The Saudis have long been allies of the Israelis in trying to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Olympic Hacking

A few months ago, before the start of Rio 2016, Anonymous announced another operation called #OpOlympicHacking (Operation “Olympic Hacking”).

#OpOlympicHacking has social motivation in Brazil as did #OpWorldCup (Operation “WorldCup”), launched by Anonymous during the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil which targeted various government organizations as a form of protest against hosting the event.

The Anonymous group released the following statement about #OpOlympicHacking:

“Hello Rio de Janeiro. We know that many have realized how harmful it was (and still is) the Olympic Games in the city. The media sells the illusion that the whole city celebrates and commemorate the reception of tourists from all over the world, many of them attracted by the prostitution network and drugs at a bargain price.

This false happiness hides the blood shed in the suburbs of the city, mainly in the favelas thanks to countless police raids and military under the pretext of a fake war. Poverty is spreading throughout the city, forcing entire families to leave their homes and traditional neighborhoods on account of high prices of rent and / or removals made by a corrupt city hall and serves only the wishes of the civil construction. We already manifested in other communications our repudiation to the realization of megaevents in the middle of the glaring social inequalities in this country. Still, even after so many words, so many manifestos or protests on the streets (all always fully supervised by repression, if not repressed with brutal violence) looks like the goverment will continue ignoring the voices of their own people. Therefore, we will continue with our operations to unmask the numerous arbitrary actions of those who are state and therefore its own population enemies.

So, is hacktivism good or bad? That depends on your perspective. Like most weapons, hacking can be used for good or bad, to defend freedom or attack it. Perhaps only time will tell whether hacktivism earns a reputation for net detriment or net benefit.

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