Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

Hacktivism being exploited by criminals and governments, McAfee report concludes

Big Brother gets tie-died

Article comments

Hacktivism is an amorphous movement that might now be hiding a range of darker motivations such as outright criminality and state-sponsored phishing, an analysis of the phenomenon by McAfee has suggested.

Hacktivism: Cyberspace has become the new medium for political voices, by François Paget, is long on description of its various strands but as unsure as most analyses of whose interests it might be serving.

Underneath the surface, there are a few clues worth paying attention to.

This open-minded analysis divides hacktivism into three camps; publicity seekers such as Anonymous, politically-motivated 'cyberwarriors' from countries such as Iran, China and Russia, and 'cyberoccupiers', the “real” activists who attempt to build more a concrete movement through co-operation.

As descriptions go, this one is comprehensive, right back to mentioning the 12 September 1981 formation of Berlin's famous Chaos Computer Club which marked the first stirrings of digital idealism.

As far as 2012 goes, McAfee's Paget isn't hugely convinced by Anonymous as being anything other than an umbrella that seems capable of spitting out the odd group of jokers such as LulzSec.

More significant are the cyber-dissidents from social discontents such as the Arab Spring but their existence has brought into play new and troubling forces of counter-action, particularly those with something to lose, principally governments.

The danger is perhaps of falling into the trap of taking hacktivism at face value; whatever its motivations one reason why it happens is simply because it can. Retribution is seen as unlikely, anonymity far easier than with non-Internet activity and publicity is guaranteed. Hacktivism is depressingly cheap.

Some would argue that the idealistic cost for campaigners – the dissident cyberoccupiers – is that the world gets too used to hacktivism. Yesterday's high-profile DDoS or annoying defacement becomes today's run-of-the-mill protest, like eggs thrown at Fortune 500 CEOs as they alight from SUVs at shareholder meetings with the cameras flashing.

Paget might disagree – the real danger is that hacktivism is hollowed out from within by those who want to exploit and subvert it. People don't stop listening so much as stop agreeing.

“[The] apparent randomness of purpose suggests that some individuals are perhaps playing a double game, hiding illegal activities under the cover of political hacktivism. White-hat hackers point out that the lack of ethics in many operations suggest that some hacktivists may be controlled by government secret services,” concludes Paget.

“If hacktivists remain unfocused and continue to accept anyone who signs on to act on their behalf,
we may be on the verge of a digital civil war. The entire hacktivist movement may fall victim to
an increase in criminalisation.”

Thoughtfully, Paget suggests that despite its random and illegal activities we don't write off the core ideals of a movement just yet. The danger, in fact, is that others hijack its name. Hacktivism might at its best be activism in digital form but it needs to mature rapidly or face being discredited - or worse.


More from Techworld

More relevant IT news


Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *