What is Hacktivism?
Hacktivism refers to a social or political activist act that is performed by people known as “hacktivists.” Hacktivists attack by using a plethora of hacking methods that allow them to gain access to personal computers, where they can take control and gain private information.
In most cases, hacktivism is not used for financial gain. Rather, hacktivism is conducted on government bodies to gain information that is used to stimulate social or political reform.
- Hacktivism is an attack on individuals, public figures, or government entities with the intention to fulfill activist agendas and spread awareness.
- Agenda intentions range from political, social, religious, and anarchist.
- Steps can be taken to avoid hacktivist attacks, such as safe browsing, two-factor authentication, and implementing security software.
As mentioned, hacktivism is an activist act that is done to spread information to the public. Shown below are the different forms of hacktivist intentions:
- Political: Most commonly, hacktivism is performed on government bodies to gain and spread private information to the public in an attempt to start social or political movements or protests.
- Social: Also common, hacktivists intend to bring societal change by disrupting government bodies so that they can spread their beliefs.
- Religious: Hacktivism can be conducted for religious agendas that aim to recruit individuals or dismantle a religious entity.
- Anarchist: Anarchist-driven agendas conducted by hacktivists aim to cause social distress by hacking entire populations and military installation and unleashing computerized viruses.
Hacktivism Hacking Tactics
Using some of the hacking tactics mentioned below, hacktivists can gain access to secure computer systems and gain information for activist agendas.
- Doxxing: Doxxing is a tactic used by hacktivist groups to leak confidential information of public figures, organizations, or government bodies.
- DDoS: Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) is a tactic used by hacktivist groups to overload computer systems and crash company websites. It is most commonly performed on large organizations.
- Defacement: Defacement is a tactic used by hacktivists to alter the appearance of a website. The tactic is most commonly done to spread activist agendas on government websites.
Infamous Hacktivism Groups
During the last decade, there has been a large surge of hacktivist groups. Listed below are some of the major hacktivist groups and the focus of their efforts:
- Anonymous: The most iconic hacktivist group, Anonymous, is responsible for hacking multiple religious groups, government bodies, and public figures.
- Masters of Deception: Based out of New York, the Masters of Deception are known for exploiting a large number of telephone companies.
- Legion of Doom: The Legion of Doom is a hacktivist group that is responsible for the Hacker Manifesto, which is said to have influenced and created a plethora of new hackers.
- Chaos Computer Club: Known as Europe’s largest hacking group, the Chaos Computer Club advocates for government transparency. Apart from the rest, the Chaos Security Club was used to educate the public by exposing governmental security flaws.
- Lizard Squad: The Lizard Squad is a hacktivist group that claims to be responsible for the Malaysian Airline attacks and the Facebook DDoS. Their primary goal, however, is to DDoS video game servers such as the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live.
- Homebrew Computer Club: Founded in Silicon Valley, the Homebrew Computer Club was an informational hacking group that spawned famous computer engineers such as Steve Wozniak. As of now, the Homebrew Computer Club does not exist.
Infamous Hacktivism Campaigns
Hacktivist attacks frequently support social or political movements or causes. Listed below are two instances where hacktivists joined other ongoing campaigns.
- The Black Lives Matter Movement: After the death of George Floyd in 2020, Anonymous resurfaced and spoke about the issues regarding police brutality. Pursuing social justice, Anonymous temporarily disabled the Minneapolis PD and government websites.
- US Executive Branch: In 2013, the Syrian Electronic Army carried out DDoS attacks on the US Executive Branch to fulfill their anarchist agenda. The attack temporarily disabled government, privately-held, and media websites.
How to Prevent Hacktivist Attacks
Some of the steps that can be taken to avoid being attacked by a hacktivist include:
- Perform a regular audit of the monitoring system.
- Implement an automated incident response platform such as Hexadite or CyberSponse.
- Implement two-factor authentication for log-in websites.
- Purchase security software such as Total AV, McAfee, or Bitdefender.
- If immense security is needed, considering purchasing a firewall.
- Formulate an in-depth response plan to react if an attack happens.
Keeping information secure is crucial for any individual, business, or government entity. Consider implementing any of the methods above to reduce the chances of a hacktivist attack.
Thank you for reading CFI’s guide to Hacktivism. To keep advancing your career, the additional CFI resources below will be useful: