The internet has forever changed advocacy. Activists that would traditionally hit the pavement in protest or organize sit-ins to garner attention are now going digital with their efforts. Hacktivism, a combination of the words hacking and activism, is the use of hacking to expose a believed injustice. It is also referred to as cyberactivism, digital activism, or online activism.
Please note that activism and protests are protected legal activities while hacking is illegal.
Hacktivists and hacktivist groups
The individuals that participate in hacking attacks as a form of activism are called hacktivists. Their motivations vary widely but tend to be social, political, or religious. There is also an array of attack types carried out by hacktivists to bring attention to their cause of choice.
Hacktivists and hacktivists groups claim that their intentions are altruistic and not meant to cause malicious harm. They cause online disruption in an attempt to bring about their desired change.
Most hacktivist groups strive to stay anonymous, but others have names and are widely recognized. Wikileaks, Syrian Electronic Army, and Cult of the Dead Cow are three examples of the most well-known hacktivist groups. While any organization or individual can be targeted by hacktivists, common targets include multinational corporations, government agencies, and powerful individuals.
Types of hacktivism
Whether it’s promoting free speech or releasing incriminating information, hacktivism cyberattacks come in many different forms:
- Anonymous blogging – the writing of blog posts under an anonymous name, often to protect a whistleblower that is exposing injustice.
- Denial of Service (DoS) – Preventing access to computers
- Doxing – gathering of information and releasing it publicly to incriminate, embarrass or incite change.
- Geo-bombing – revealing the location, via Google Earth, where YouTube videos are recorded of political or human rights prisoners.
- Website defacement – changing the appearance of a website, typically to push messaging that brings attention to a cause important to the hacktivist.
- Website mirroring – a workaround to share censored websites. The censored website will be copied and posted with a modified URL making it publicly available.
- Website redirect – modifying the address of a website so visitors are automatically redirected to a different website that supports the hacktivist or group’s agenda.
Potential for mass disruptions
Even though hacktivism isn’t a brand new idea, hacktivist attacks are becoming more common, especially during these turbulent international times. Despite efforts from governments all over the globe, hacktivism has developed into a force to be reckoned with and no doubt can cause mass disruptions.