Hacktivism is actually a relatively new term – an amalgamation of the hacker and the activist.
Given the way that hackers are usually portrayed by the government and media, the name seems somewhat of a contradiction, but when you consider that a lot of the things hacktivists stand for are things the government oppose… Well, you get the picture.
However, recently it seems that some of the actions hactivists have taken in protest seem to be going a little too far, causing problems for regular people like you and me.
So when did it start?
Hacktivism truly began before there was even a term for it – apart from, of course, plain old “hacking”.
In October 1989, a source attacked computers connected to NASA, DOE and HEPNET in protest of the Galileo space probe which was headed to Jupiter, fuelled by radioactive plutonium.
The hacker released a worm into the system, which changed the login screen of computers to read: ‘WORMS AGAINST NEUCLEAR KILLERS. Your system has been officially WANKed.’
NASA estimated it cost around half a million dollars in resources and time to resolve it, and to make matters worse, the hacker was never discovered.
And so hacktivism was born.
Why is it so big now?
Hacktivism has been steadily growing for over a decade.
In 2000 there was what was considered a big rise in complaints to the Internet Crime Complaint Centre, around 16,000 complaints were made. By 2008 this had risen to a whopping 257,000 complaints.
Over the last few years, hactivists have come out of the woodwork and given themselves voices by forming groups and claiming responsibility for certain attacks.
Perhaps the most vocal of all groups is ‘Anonymous’, responsible for many large hacks over political issues over the last two years.
There are many reasons hacktivism is constantly on the increase. People are becoming more and more despondent towards the attitudes of governments across the world. Uprisings are snowballing off each other and political protests, like the “Occupy…” movements are hitting a note with many.
As computer knowledge increases, hacking does too.
Once it was just something dejected 30 year olds still living in their parent’s basement would do, but now anyone unhappy with the world we live in can become involved in it through hacking groups. Hacktivist groups breed fearlessness, as there is a sense that you won’t get caught as you are part of a network.
How far will it go?
Although many can empathise with the hacktivists and why they attack the targets they do, there has also been a backlash.
‘Anonymous’s’ “Operation DarkNet” was generally praised by all, as it took down over 40 child pornography sites and published the names of over 1,500 users, inviting the FBI and Interpol to investigate further.
However, their threats to “shut down the internet” for a day on the 31st March 2012 have been met with criticism – many don’t believe they can disrupt the internet for more than a few minutes, let alone a day. Many are also worried that it will disrupt the running of small businesses and people who depend on the internet for their livelihood.
Hacktivists targets continue getting bigger, as do their groups, despite various members being arrested by police across the world.
It remains to be seen whether hacktivists will continue widening their net and attacking anything that they disagree with, or whether they will concentrate on government agencies and political agendas.
Hactivism began as a way to protest against legitimate causes, but is spiralling into hacking with malicious intent. How far do you think hacktivism will go?
Jasmine Ayres blogs for ArcIT, one of the UKs leading IT outsourcing companies. She is an expert in IT support and writes to inform readers of issues regarding technology and IT. This article was written by a guest author. Would you like to write for us?