What Is hacktivism?
According to Wikipedia; In Internet activism, hacktivism refers to the use of computer-based techniques such as hacking as a form of civil disobedience to promote a political agenda or social change. With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to free speech, human rights, or freedom of information movements. Hacking as a form of activism could be carried out through a network of activists, for instance, Anonymous and WikiLeaks, or through a singular activist, working in collaboration toward a common goal without an authority figure.
Goals of hacktivism
- Circumventing government censorship by helping citizens get around national firewalls or helping protestors to organize online
- Using social media platforms to promote human rights or help censored citizens of oppressive regimes communicate with the outside world
- Taking down government websites that pose a danger to politically active citizens
- Protecting free speech online
- Promoting access to information
- Supporting citizen uprisings
- Assisting computer users in protecting their privacy and avoiding surveillance through secure and anonymous networks such as Tor and the Signal messaging app
- Disrupting corporate or government power
- Helping illegal immigrants cross borders safely
- Supporting democracy
- Protesting globalization and capitalism
- Protesting acts of war
- Halting the financing of terrorism.
How do hacktivists gain control of computer systems?
Just like any hacker would do, most hacktivists begin with a phishing attack, which involves sending emails to employees of target institutions to get them to click on malicious attachments or visit websites where malware is secretly downloaded to their machines. Hackers also get into systems through vulnerabilities in a company’s website that can give them access to backend databases. Once on an infected system in a company’s network, hackers can map the network and steal administrator passwords in order to gain access to other protected systems on the network and hunt down sensitive data to steal.
Impacts caused by hacktivists
The Impact caused by hackers includes stealing a huge trove of sensitive data from an institution, possibly as large as 100 terabytes of data, which will slowly be released in batches. Judging from data the hackers have leaked online so far this includes, in addition to usernames, passwords, and sensitive information about its network architecture, a host of documents exposing personal information about employees. The leaked documents include a list of employee salaries and bonuses; Social Security numbers and birth dates; HR employee performance reviews, criminal background checks, and termination records; correspondence about employee medical conditions; passport and visa information. All of these leaks might be embarrassing to the institution and its employees.
How do individuals and institutions protect themselves from hacktivists
A hacktivist is like any hacker, so the precautions we take to protect ourselves are the same.
Follow these tips to protect your devices and safeguard your sensitive data:
1. Use a firewall
2. Install antivirus software
3. Install an anti-spyware package
4. Use complex passwords
5. Keep your OS, apps, and browser up-to-date
6. Ignore spam and check for authenticity of emails
7. Use two-factor authentication
8. Use encryption
Most of all, closely monitor the weakest link in any computer system: the people who are responsible for the operation of a computer system and have administrative rights to make significant changes in the system, so it is advisable to train all employees on cybersecurity’s best practices.
Though hacktivism attacks appear to have peaked in 2011, they still remain a common occurrence in the cyber landscape in 2021.
While hacktivists most often target government agencies, large, multinational corporations, or well-established institutions, every organization could be a potential target. Again, this is because the goal of hacktivist activity is not financial gain, but attention. This means that even small or relatively unknown businesses or organizations are at risk of such attacks.
Being the victim of a hacktivist attack can result in disruption of service, financial losses, data theft, or reputational harm. These attacks may jeopardize the safety and privacy of private citizens.