Hacktivism is the result of mashing up the words hack and activism and was coined in 1998 by Omega, a member of the Cult of the Dead Crow hacker crew. By definition, hacktivism is the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends or “the nonviolent use of legal and/or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends”. Hacktivism can be in the form of web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies,virtual sit-ins, typosquatting, and virtual sabotage. Wikipedia also defines hacktivism as “the writing of code to promote political ideology: promoting expressive politics, free speech, human rights, and information ethics through software development.”
Wikibon and SiliconANGLE came up with the Hacktivist Timeline, an infographic detailing the moves done by Anonymous and their legions of hackitivists during 2011 to let the world know about the corruption and injustice happening around them.
Anonymous targets governments that suppress the freedom of their citizens to access information about what’s happening in their country. If you have noticed, most of the attacks are directed on government websites. And the usual forms of hacktivism used are website defacement, DDoS or distributed denial of service attacks, and, of course, information theft wherein the information acquired by the hackitivists are distributed to the public to incite reaction. Examples of these are Operation Tunisia, Operation Egypt, and Operation Libya.
Some people may laugh at the efforts of Anonymous but taking down government websites brings curiosity to the public and media, and when one’s curiosity is peaked, they investigate and learn why those sites were attacked. Corruption, injustice, oppression, and violence will be brought to the public’s attention, and if everyone cared enough, hopefully, it would all stop. Supporting a cause like that of Anonymous’ is not a small feat as anyone’s support could end the reign of an oppressor. So yeah, this is not a laughing matter, and Anonymous is not just a group of hackers seeking for attention.
Anonymous is not stopping anytime soon as they have eyes and ears everywhere, ready to take action anytime the government, any government, does something that suppresses the freedom of their people. Last month, when the FBI shutdown Megaupload and arrested the founder of the site, Kim Dotcom, along with other employees, Anonymous and their legion of hacktivists were quick to retaliate and brought down government and company websites. The way I see it, the attack wasn’t due to Megaupload’s shutdown, it could’ve have been any file sharing site. The point of the attack is to protest the shutdown because it happened a day after SOPA and PIPA were put on hold. So the point is, even without new laws regarding copyright, the government can do what they want, shutdown any site they dislike without even a hearing or even warning the users. Tons of people lost their data because of the abrupt shutdown.
Just last week, Anonymous struck again in protest against the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The hacktivists targeted the Federal Trade Commission website (business.ftc.gov and consumer.ftc.gov), consumer.gov—a website for information on the National Consumer Protection Week 2012—ncpw.gov, and others.
And a day before the government attack due to ACTA, a member of Anonymous released a manifesto claiming that they will be bringing the entirety of the internet down on March 30 by aiming DDoS attacks at DNS root servers. Operation Blackout calls for millions of people to participate in their cause but the FBI might just do the same except they won’t be needing the help of others in doing so.
According to a report by SiliconANGLE’s Kit Dotson, “The FBI essentially has a kill switch, and they may intend to use it as soon as to beginning of March… Although for far more altruistic reasons than stated in the “Operation Blackout” manifesto—the DNS shutdown the FBI plan will only affect computers infected with a particularly pernicious Internet virus.” So computers infected with the DNSChanger Trojan will be affected when the FBI’s operation commences on March 8.
Anonymous and their legion of hacktivists will forever lurk the streets of cyberspace as long as there is injustice, corruption, suppression of freedom, oppression, and pertinent information hidden from the public’s eyes. It’s not about agreeing or disagreeing with their method of seeking justice for those oppressed, it’s now a matter of making yourself aware of how the world you live in works and what you’re going to do about the negative things happening in it. Are you just going to idly sit in front of your computer and ignore them or are you going to do something about it?