jump to navigation

Hacktivism: how does it make you feel? August 24, 2009

Posted by Farzana Rasool in Uncategorized.

Here’s a chance for some mixed feelings: when we generally think of hacking we think ‘bad’. Think of activism and we usually think ‘good’. Combine the two and now tell me…how does that make you feel?

I’m still quite undecided myself, as to how I feel about ‘hacktivism’, the term adopted to describe the use of digital tools to achieve politically motivated goals and ideological agendas.

As I tried to so eloquently put it above, on the one hand I have a general negative feel for the art of hacking. Breaking into a space which is not your own and manipulating computer code just to suit your means doesn’t sit right with me but at the same time activism does. I am all for finding means to get your message out and to draw attention to a specific cause. Now I just have to decide whether I disapprove of hacking more than I support activism.

Kim Jin-kyung reports : “According to Australian hacker Julian Assange, the earliest form of hacktivism attacks date back to October 1989, when systems at the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were infiltrated by the anti-nuclear Worms Against Nuclear Killers (WANK) worm.”

But there have also been several recent incidents of ‘hacktivism’, like the cyber attacks on South Korean government websites which are believed to have a political motivation.

Then there was also the DDoS, or distributed-denial-of-service, attacks on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and LiveJournal earlier this month in an effort to silence a pro-Georgian blogger in an act of hacktivism.

This is the part where you all (not me of course) go: “Oh no! Not Twitter. This hacktivism thing must be bad. No more mixed feelings.”

But wait.

“Stop funding terrorism otherwise we will pawn all your cyber properties on 26th of every month.”

This was the message displayed by hacktivists on the websites of various governmental departments, educational institutions, religious groups and banks in Pakistan. ‘Mission 26th’ (the name of the website), carried the message of the Ahmedabad Cyber Army that was hacked into the websites on the anniversary of the Ahmedabad serial blasts. The message also pays tribute to victims of those blasts.

And the mixed feelings return.

Kevin Mahaffey, founder and chief technical officer of the U.S. firm Flexilis, said that these recent hackings have proved how much cyber terrorism has improved over the years.

But do we really think it’s fair to label something of this nature as terrorism? Especially something so non-violent?

William Jackson addresses this concern and looks at cases of cyber attacks in the US, South Korea as well as in Australia. He blames the attacks on tense international situations and claims that with a fragmented global community, the attacks are likely to increase.

Such a claim is disheartening but at the same time we must realise that cyber warfare allows so many small countries to have a voice and draw attention to their issues in a manner disproportionate to their influence. These countries now have a chance to attack and a chance to be formidable opponents in a way that would never be possible for them militarily.

Jackson has a similar view, saying: “North Korea has a real image problem, and most of the world does not take its threats seriously. But if someone is kept out of Amazon.com for a few hours, North Korean concerns become a factor in his or her life.”

So we see the positives and the negatives but still…how does this make us feel? I’m still kind of deciding but I think my vote lies in the positive. As long as serious issues can be aired and addressed because of it, hacktivism does have its role to play.



1. Adam - August 31, 2009

The problem is that hacktivism is used to justify illegal and unrelated activities. It is a way to gain publicity and justify otherwise mediocre and illegal activity.

While there are some true cases, most that are sited from the late 90s when the movement began to really gain steam, are all just covers for media whores trying to gain attention.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: