Hacktivism is the result of the mix between powerful “Hacking” tools and the passionate force of “Activism”.

When combined together, it can be the most powerful anti-political weapon, ever made.

Most events surrounding this phenomenon reached media attention from 2011 onwards and it reached a peak in 2015-2016… Later to “die” shortly after. 

But, is it truly dead?

What is Hacktivism and How does it Work Exactly?

Do not fear. Hacking experts are on our side this time.

As regular hackers, they exploit computer systems and networks to get media attention to important social and political causes (freedom of information, human rights, among others).

While they are particularly known to express their opposition through the display of images on the authority’s website… Hacktivists are able to do so much more than that.

  1. Changing Websites Code – Government sites are often the biggest targets, where they display error messages when someones use their services.
  2. Mirroring – They replicate the content from a censored website, and redirect the traffic to a whole new URL.
  3. Information Leaks – Sensible, classified information is taken out of the malicious organizations they hunt down. Typically through hacking, social engineering, or directly extracted through an insider source. They later share it anonymously to the public eye with WikiLeaks and other dedicated portals.
  4. DoS and DDoS – Denial-of-service and Distributed denial-of-service attacks are among their most powerful tools. It basically blocks entire systems, devices, and networks or takes them down with floods of traffic. 

As you have noticed, hacktivists use hacking tools and techniques to disrupt services and raise social awareness. But in times, there has been some debate against the use of DoS, arguing whether or not it is illegal.

Who do they target? 

Between the hacktivist’s targets, you can find government agencies and multinational companies… Those who are often perceived as ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.

And, what motivates Hacktivists? 

They’re often driven by revenge (when decide to embarrass organizations) or social/ideological incentives when powerful entities go against their moral position. 

Hacktivists that Defined the Past, Present, and Future

It’s was in October 1980 when the first known action of “hacktivism” caught public attention.

A malware worm infiltrated computers of the NASA and U.S. Energy Department, altering the login screens to “Worms against nuclear killers…” Clearly opposing the Cold War forces.

Something similar happened after the approval of John Mayor’s Criminal Justice and Order Act (November 1994), and the trend continued with the Hong Kong Blondies, where Chinese computer systems were targeted to provide free internet access to the population.

Little did they know that these protest methods were creating a paved road for others to come. Up to this day, we have seen hundreds of new Hacktivists groups join the table… 

The following are the most notorious:

#1 – Cult of the Dead Cow

This was the group that gave birth to the term “hacktivism”. They are mostly focused on hacking for political purposes. 

Among its main members, we can find Oxblood Ruffin (Canadian hacker, and “Foreign Minister” of the Cult of the Dead Cow) and Jacob Appelbaum (key member behind the Tor project: software that enables online anonymity).

#2 – WikiLeaks

It was started in 2006 by Julian Assange, and more than a group… It is an independent, non-profit online directory. J. Assange now faces extradition in the US after being captured by the London Metropolitan Forces in April 2019 

WikiLeaks logo

WikiLeaks caught mainstream media attention when 80,000 documents about the U.S. war in Afghanistan were published there, along with 400,000 other related to the war in Iraq. 

They also leaked thousands of emails (with attachments) from the Democratic National Committee around the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign period.

Another famous hacktivist involved in the WikiLeaks project is Rop Gonggrijp. This dutch hacker has spoken about the vulnerability of electronic voting systems, among other topics. 

He was the one who leaked information about the “Collateral Murder” case.

#3 – Anonymous

“We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

So far, that’s the tagline of the biggest or at least most well-known hacktivist group.

Decentralized and International, wearing the Guy Fawkes mask (from V for Vendetta), they have stricken high-profile targeted attacks during the last decade.

Annonymous Hacktivism

But Anonymous humble origin probably goes beyond 2003 (on 4chan forums) but was later in 2008, after the attack to the Church of Scientology, when they got into the spotlight.

Barrett Brown was one of the few key members of Anonymous known to date. He’s now facing federal charges, but being originally a writer, served a support role to the group’s news. He also helped overthrow the government of Tunisia.

#4 – LulzSec

Several members of Anonymous started LulzSec (also known as Lulz Security) in 2011.

His co-founder, Hector Xavier Monsegur (Sabu) achieved press notoriety due to a 50-day hacking marathon. Targeted websites include the CIA, Fox Broadcasting Network, Sony Playstation Network, the US Senate, and many others. 

Jake Davis (Topiary) is another popular hacktivist that formed part of the LulzSec team. He was once a former member of Anonymous, and in 2011 was found guilty of attacking the website of SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency). He works now as a cybersecurity consultant.

Their most impactful LulzSec attack was made in 2011, when they took down the FBI website, leading to the arrest of some members.

Summary

Today’s report was made to show people there’s hope behind the screen, and to educate everyone of the real hacking capacity.

This time, organizations pushed by a good cause are applauded… But tomorrow, it will be late to when you find all your business assets disappear for a not-so-friendly group.

You can wait so it happens the same to your website and/or servers.

Or, you can prevent and protect all of it, and enjoy a 24/7 peace of mind.

Which one sounds better to you?