Hacking in 2022 has become such a familiar concept and phenomenon that even pre-teens with smartphones know about it.
With more internet and social media users, flooding in daily, hacking activities has increased rampantly. It has risen to the point where police departments now have a cyber cell committed to tracking and stopping hackers.
Ever since hackers started getting involved in political protests, the hacking landscape has changed completely. From hackers being known in a negative light so far, some acts have left people confused.
Are hackers good or bad?
Well, the answer depends on whether or not the hacker in question is a hacktivist.
Therefore, let us find out what these “hacking activists” have done so far and whether they are a menace or the messiah to this digital society or not.
Who Is A Hacktivist, And What Is Hacktivism?
As the name suggests, a hacktivist is a “hacker activist.” These hackers hack not for personal gains but as once interviewed, for the betterment of society. This term was first coined by one of the most famous hacking groups – The Cult Of The Dead Cow.
These types of hackers hack into various systems and networks to find key information about shady activities. They often hack into governmental networks and mainframes to find information about shady government activities.
Mostly, these hackers initiate a hack when the government takes certain actions against the public. These acts can be in the form of the introduction of new policies and other such governmental proceedings.
All hacktivists will proclaim that they conduct hacktivism – the act of hacking to bring forth societal change. This is either done by exposing government secrets and conspiracies. However, they are not billed as white hat hackers.
However, it is essential to know that the government isn’t the only group targeted. These hackers also target big businesses and conglomerates that they believe conduct shady activities harmful to society.
Techniques Used By An Hacktivist
To become a hacktivist, you must know some of the most advanced hacking techniques. Therefore, script kiddies are not allowed to become one just yet. These include, but are not limited to:
Doxing is by far one of the most common hacking activities that are essential for hacktivism. Here, doxing refers to the process of hacking computer systems to find sensitive information about a person or an organization.
This is done by revealing the information through websites (WikiLeaks being a popular one) or through social media (Preferably Twitter). Gray hat hackers primarily prefer this technique.
Sometimes, preventing a person or an organization from gaining access to a system is the best way to hinder their activities. This type of attack that directly creates an obstacle for people is called DoS or DDoS attack. Black hat hackers typically use this.
DoS (Denial of Service) or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) is a process that injects malware into various systems. When the users log in through these systems, all their data go to a particular website. Hacktivists love doing this to overload a website’s servers and crash it.
Website cloning (also known as website mirroring) is a type of hack that clones a targeted website. Many hackers have said (anonymously) that this is the voice of protest against censorship.
Since governments started blocking and backing websites, hacktivists have mirrored websites with different URLs. An additional proxy address and URL allows people to access certain websites still and get around the restriction. This is common for many Torrent websites (PirateBay being a popular example).
This is a classic form of hacktivism since it voices the opinion of hackers against government censorship. Hackers consider this to be an obstacle to freedom of speech on the internet. Therefore, hacktivist acts like this are a direct form of digital protests.
As the name suggests, defaming a person digitally can be done by altering texts, videos, and images on the internet. This is how terms such as deep fakes came to be. Here, fake visual representations of people or organizations circulate online to defame them and bring their activities to light.
Often, the targets’ websites get replaced with a different home page. This new page contains messages directly from hacktivist groups, aiming to inform people about news related to the targets. Unfortunately, most of the time, these messages are often cryptic.
Many red hat hackers apply this technique to track down hackers and get them out of their digital hideout.
One of the best ways to understand what is hacktivism, by writing a blog can often be the best way to express yourself on the internet.
Here, a hacktivist anonymously publishes blogs that aim to teach people about activities that have been going under the radar. These are news that people should know about, but the government or certain organizations don’t want to.
How Certain Hacktivist Groups Hit The Headlines
Hacktivism has become popular enough to make headlines in news channels and newspapers. Some of the most famous incidents are:
Hacker Group Anonymous
When it comes to hacking and hacktivism, Anonymous has been one of the prime examples. With the Guy Fawkes mask inspired by the movie V For Vendetta, this is a collective anonymous hacktivist association. In addition, the television series fictionally represented this group in Mr. Robot, starring Rami Malek.
This group hit the headlines when they started launching coordinated hacking attacks against many organizations and government agencies. Their main aim is to anonymize societal reforms through digital activities.
Popular Californian hacktivist advocate Jay Leiderman hit the news after his death in November 2021. He was popularly known as the California Leiderman hacktivist or California Jay hacktivist.
As an advocate, he defended many hacktivists in court from being prosecuted by the authorities. He was famous for defending Anonymous hacker group attacks against PayPal and MasterCard when they blocked donations to WikiLeaks. This was featured in an episode of this
Frequently Asked Questions That A Hacktivist Will Answer (FAQ):
Cyber group Anonymous briefly reduced activities in 2018. However, they are not dead and have resurfaced again in 2020 to voice their hacktivist opinions supporting the George Floyd protests.
Most hacktivists have a good aim to bring forth social change through the hacking of digital media. Unfortunately, however, some of them have turned out to be worse.
A hacker is simply a person who infiltrates computer systems illegally to steal information or plant bugs on them. On the other hand, a hacktivist is a hacker who conducts hacktivism to bring forth change and voice their opinions against governments and other agencies.
No, hacktivism is not ethical. Under most governmental laws, hacking itself is an illegal activity.
Conclusion: Hacking For A Change
Bringing forth a revolution by hacking often gets billed as the new form of “divine justice” that this digital era needs.
When a hacktivist dons a Guy Fawkes mask and does the deed to bring shady acts to light, the government starts hunting them like dogs.
Is this the change that the people need? And why do governments always rely on hiding the truth to increase their vote banks? Hasn’t the Watergate scandal taught us enough?
Hacktivism is necessary to bring forth the next revolution for a better digital world. Hacktivists might be a menace to the government, but they are the messiah we need.
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