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"We're still in the first minutes of the first day of the Internet revolution." – Scott Cook

Archive for June, 2013


June 18th, 2013 by Erin McAfee

 The Emotional World of a Hacktivist

Hacktivism is a form of activism which involves destructive interactions with computers or electronic networks. The goal of a hacktivist is political in nature, unlike a hacker who can have a financial or criminal incentive for his actions. Hacktivism is a type of payback for real or perceived offenses violated against one’s political ideologies.

After the WikiLeaks organization humiliated the United States Government by disclosing thousands of confidential and sensitive cables, the U.S. government retaliated and convinced financial institutions to cut ties with WikiLeaks. The hacktivist group named Anonymous retaliated against these financial institutions (e.g., PayPal and Visa) for cutting ties with WikiLeaks. They did this by dropping massive DDos bombs (distributed denial-of-service attacks) onto their servers.  DDos are a popular form of cyber-attack.  The hackers target a large corporation, say a bank, and unload up to (possibly) 65 gigabits of data and requests per second onto its servers – this is like dropping five pounds of flour onto an ant every two seconds. The data load crushes or impairs the servers causing massive delays and interruptions. The worst damage done, however, is to the banking institution’s reputation. The institution looks weak, vulnerable, and unsafe in the public’s eyes.

Hacktivism is a huge game of tit for tat retaliations and often both parties become fully engaged in the behavior. Humiliating the targeted institution or group is the primary goal: they see an injustice (real or perceived) — they get mad and then they get even. The most sophisticated hacktivists work out of countries like Russia, Iran, and China. It is no secret that these countries feel much hostility towards Western nations.  North Korea felt humiliated by recent sanctions imposed by the West so they responded with a series of cyber-attacks on our friends in South Korea.

Edward Snowden, the man behind the NSA surveillance leaks claimed that he could no longer keep quiet or carry the burden of what the NSA was doing to its own citizens, yet he flies to China, a country with the most notorious, online surveillance practices in the world – not to mention China’s reputation for hacking into the networks of foreign governments and corporations.  It is estimated that in 2012 alone, American companies suffered losses of 234 billion dollars – much of this as a result of China stealing trade secrets. If Snowden thinks the US government is bad about eavesdropping, he is in for a world of pain in China and Russia.