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What is hacktivism?

Hacktivism is the use of computer technologies for the purpose of information warfare, cultural manipulation and/or the indirect achievement of specific political or social outcomes.

Where did the term hacktivism come from?

The word hacktivism blends the words “hacker” and “activism.”

Who do hactivists target? 

Hactivists may choose to target any organization, institution or business that is perceived as making unethical or harmful decisions. Underlying motives may include revenge, a desire to embarrass certain people or organizations, and/or a desire to make an ideological statement, among other things.

What are some famous examples of hacktivism? 

In 2020, the hacktivist groups called Anonymous and DDoSecrets emerged at the center of a hacktivist initiative that involved publicly dumping millions of US police files onto the internet.

In 2012, after the US government requested for PayPal, Visa and MasterCard to prevent payments to Wikileaks, a hacktivist organization conducted a widespread Distributed Denial of Service attack (DDoS), which interfered with the aforementioned organizations’ websites. In turn, this resulted in corporate financial losses.

In 2008, the Anonymous hactivist group conducted an attack on the Church of Scientology via a YouTube video containing Tom Cruise.

Hacktivism may involve one or more of the following:

  • DDoS attacks
  • Data theft
  • Hacking of social media accounts
  • Defacement of websites
  • Computer viruses and worms
  • Leaking of privately owned data

How can organizations mitigate the threats presented by hacktivism?

Stay off of hackers’ radars. Gartner recommends that organizations “Put some guidance in place in terms of educating employees on how to appropriately represent the company externally.”

In some instances, experts recommend that organizations build-up a security system that can withstand actions by hactivists. Because some organizations engage in endeavors that irritate the public, an angered person or persons with some hacking skills might attempt to take them down. Consider companies that sell products made out of animal fur, or animal hide, for example.

One way to assess whether or not your organization may become the victim of a hacktivist attack is to continually monitor hacktivist groups’ Twitter feeds. These groups often Tweet about their views before acting on them. In an interview, the leader of the hacktivist group Team GhostShell stated “People should check our Twitter page more often, we let them know in advance what’s going to happen.”

What are the top 5 global hacktivist groups? 

  • Anonymous
  • Chafer
  • Charming Kitten
  • Comment Crew
  • Cozy Bear

For an extended list of prominent global hacktivist groups, click here. For more in-depth information on hacktivism, click here.