Thursday, 22 March 2012

Hacktivists: In the Name of the Internet

By Daniel Rollins

Verizon, the international communications and broadband company, has published an analysis of large scale internet security breaches where data is stolen and has found some interesting trends. 
It found that more data was stolen from large companies and organisations last year by “Hacktivists” than by traditional cyber criminals. Hacktivists took 58% of the data stolen last year while organised crime groups only stole 35% to sell or use to commit other crimes.

So what is "Hacktavism"? 
It is a blend of hacking and activism and is often defined as, "the nonviolent use of legal and/or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends". It usually involves defacing websites and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks, which overloading websites with traffic so they can not function. However in the last year hacktivists have also begun to steal data from government organisation or large businesses and post freely on the web. This is often both disruptive and embarrassing for the targeted organisation.   

Hacktivist organisations such as, “Anonymous”, “Lulzsec” and “Antisec”, found fame when they targeted high profile organisations such as NATO, Sony, when they took down the PlayStation network and the US Senate, releasing emails and passwords. Though many of the hackers claim that their hacks are, “Just 4 Lulz” (Just for fun), many have political motives. For example hacktivist groups supported the Arab Spring by downing many government websites first in Tunisia and then in Egypt and regularly attack organisations that they see as threatening freedom of speech on the internet. For instance the Anonymous group began to attack Visa and MasterCard when they stopped allowing payments to Wikileaks, the whistle-blowing website.

So are hacktivists justified in their actions, do they play an important role in keeping the internet free or are they more sinister than they seem? Please leave comments below with your answers. 

Members of Anonymous
By Vincent Diamante [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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