What is Cyber Hacktivism?

13.05.2020 Read
What is Cyber Hacktivism?

We all know about hacking and hackers, but what about hacktivism and hacktivists? In this article, we will discuss what hacktivism is and how it can affect your organization.

Hackers and the act of hacking found their way into mainstream long ago, with the help of high budget films and our increasing use of technology in almost every aspect of our lives. That is why almost everyone knows what hacking is and who a hacker is.

In the recent years, a new term has made its way into our vocabularies: Hacktivism. It is a portmanteau term that consists of ‘hack’ and ‘activism.’ In this blog post, we will discuss what hacktivism is in detail and explain what hacktivists do.

What is hacktivism?

It has been only a few years since we started seeing the media headlines about the big stunts done by hacktivists. Ever since, hacktivists around the world has leaked sensitive data about and belonging to global organizations, defaced hundreds of webpages, rendered many worldwide organizations offline and so forth.

Hacktivists argue that they are vigilantes, rebels with a good cause. They use the same tools, software, methods and devices as the actual hackers in order to gain access to the network, database or devices of an organization. And again, similar to the hackers, hacktivists aim to gather or expose sensitive information. Yet contrary to the hackers, hacktivists do such actions with a purpose of exposing the ugly truth, helping the civil community or gaining a leverage in advocating their beliefs and ideology.

Are hacktivism ethical? Is it beneficial for the society? Who does it help? We all have the same philosophical questions in mind but there is no ultimate ‘right answer’ to most of these questions. That is why we will stick with the cyber security aspect of hacktivism and hacktivists in this blog article.

What do hacktivists do?

Hacktivists attack and hack secure computer systems. The target of hacktivists are often large corporates or government bodies. Since hacktivists act with a sense of political conscience, they might also attack smaller corporations and organizations as well. Hackers have the purpose of financial gain and that is why they mostly target bigger organizations yet hacktivists don’t pursue monetary gain, that is why almost any organization, regardless of their size, can be a target of hacktivism.

Hacktivists use the exact same tools, methods and software as the hackers: Malware, viruses, trojans, computer worms, phishing and various other malicious software in addition to DDoS attacks, brute force attacks and similar methods.

How can I protect my organization?

Since hacktivists use the same tools as the hackers, you can protect your organization from hacktivists and hackers if you take the essential cyber security precautions. Below you can find some advice.

  • Invest in hiring an expert IT and/or cyber security team.
  • Prioritize your assets and plan your cyber security strategy around the most important ones.
  • Educate your staff. Not just the IT staff, everyone! So that your organization can have a stronger façade against phishing and similar attacks.
  • Update the operating systems, firewalls, security protocols, antivirus software and similar tools regularly.
  • Schedule and conduct regular tests to find out the vulnerabilities of your systems and alleviate them.
  • Have an emergency plan for the event of an attack happening. Make sure that the members of your IT and/or cyber security team know their role in such an event.
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