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What is Hacktivism?

Question:

Discuss about the Emerging Technologies of Hacktivism.

Hacktivism refers to the way of hacking or the breaking of someone into the system of someone for the purpose of motivating the peoples in the field of political and social aspects. The persons who performs the act of hacktivism is known as hacktivist. A hacktivist uses the same methods used by a hacker to break into the system but the breaking is done so as to disrupt the system and bring the attention of the users towards some political or social cause (Bodford and Kwan 2017). One example of hacktivism is leaving a message that is highly visible on the homepage of various website that gets a lot of traffic or the websites that are embodying a point of view and is being opposed. Another example is the launching of the “Denial-of-Service attack” so as to disrupt the traffic in a certain cite. The debate always rises if the act of a hacktivist is a crime or not. Person who opposes the hacktivism says that hacktivism causes a disruption and damage in the forums that has an ample opportunity of free speech. Along with this the peoples who are in favour of hacktivism says that this process is almost similar to a protest which results in making it a protected and free form of speech (PytlikZillig et al 2015).

The main goal of hacktivism is to highlight the issues and the causes that are responsible for the changes in a social world (Micali 2016). Hacktivism can also be considered as an activism due to the fact that the achievement of goals by this process is done in a peaceful manner.  Hacktivism is also included in the components of hacking. People in favour of hacktivism justifies hacktivism as the new form of protest, political activism or civil disobedience. As all this thing are justified then hacktivism is also justified. They also say that hacktivism is done for a good reason like confrontation of the corrupted government, they also targeted the sites for child pornography and many more (Aviles 2015). According to them all the information’s should be free and accessible to everyone. The primary agenda for them is the free flow of the information’s. Production of social benefit is done by the exposure of the flaws of the internet securities and encouraging the society to protest against the data. And according to the peoples against the hacktivism says that everyone has their fundamental rights towards their privacy and hacktivist violets all this rights (Solomon 2017). Along with this people also have rights to property and hacktivist also violets this right. They also refer the hacktivists as vigilantes who are working outside the law. And one of the important thing is hacktivists are always anonymous and there is no accountability for all this action making them enjoy the legal impunity and are not able bought to justice in spite of doing harm to innocent peoples (Milan 2015). They also say that hacktivists are responsible for the jeopardizing of the national security.

Debate over Hacktivism

LulzSec make an attack on the internet website named www.porn.com in the year of 2011 and published almost around 26000 email addresses and their passwords in an attempt to confront and embarrass the users. The confrontation included to officials from the Malaysian government and three US military members. By this process an unexpected amount of response from Facebook as they prevented the users having the same email address to access the Facebook accounts. LulzSec also attacked InfraGrade which is a partnership business with “Federal Bureau of Investigation” of US. In this attack the InfraGrade was defaced thereby damaging the Senate with release of some of the secure data which also made the site of CIA go down for almost two hours. Another attack it attempted was on the UK National Health Service but in this case it was for the public interest as it sends an email to the NHS informing them to increase the security of their site by pointing out the vulnerabilities it found in it.


Hacktivism is a nonviolent use of the illegal or legal ambiguous digital tools which pursuits the political ends. This may include blocking or defacing of the websites so as to promote the political freedom of individuals (Deseriis 2016). Most of resources that are used by the hacktivist are online making anything and anyone become the target. Despite of the main goal of a hacktivist their activities also causes less distraction and irritation along with many activities that causes disruption, loss of reputation and many more. Activities of the hacktivist can be seen as good as well as bad and it depends on what side it lands. Many instances are there when people confuse it with cyberterrorism (Follis and Fish 2017) The only similarity between them is that they are both carried out online. Cyberterrorism aims at harming peoples whereas hacktivism aims at raising awareness about a certain issue. Most of the hacktivist are considered illegal when viewed from the statutes of domestic and international. Many of the damages are incurred whereas many were carried through to prosecution. Tracking down of the people who are responsible for hacktivism are difficult due to the hacktivism’s global nature and the anonymous face of most of the people that are involved in the act of hacktivism (Applegate 2015). Many people argue that hacktivism is an activity that is falling underneath the banner of the free speech and are protected accordingly whereas other consider it to be a fallout of those efforts that goes against those free speeches that can harm both the corporations as well as the individuals.

Examples of Hacktivism

There are various precautions that need to be taken which can help in preventing hacktivism and this includes the use of virus protections and programs for the detection of the virus. Along with this monitoring of the public facing accounts present on the internet should be done and this mainly includes the email, website, social media and many more. It should also be made sure that all the personally identifying information’s are not available online. Updating of the systems and the defence programs should be done on a regular basis so as to protect the system from potential threats.

Hacktivism and activism are commonly related however hacktivism is different as it is done mostly in a digital form. Hacktivist are not after any financial gain but are doing their activites so as to make a statement (Fish and Follis 2015). The primary reason that lies behind the hacking of a hacktivist is that they want to highlight a cause. Instead of following the civil disobedience they want to use the internet for digital disruption and a crucial tool for carrying out any type of message all around the world. Hacktivist makes use of resources that are legal as well as illegal in pursuit of the messages that re important for them and this are mostly cantered around the political and human right issues. Information’s are gathered underneath the banner of causes from a single place without any travelling (Tanczer and Tanczer 2015). This empowers both the group as well as the individuals in any type of actions and efforts for the digital disruption. With the involvement of low cost in accessing the internet hacktivists make use of the tools that are free and easy to learn for the purpose of carrying out the operations. All the operations are online and due to this the involvement of the peoples physically is also low along with involving of people legally due to the reason that most of the hacktivism (Anderson 2015) campaigns are not pursued by any type of law enforcement agencies unless and until they cause any physical or financial harms.


There are various types of hacktivism and with the evolution of the internet in the field of technology the hacktivists are provided with more and more resources. Some of the tactics that are used by the hacktivists are doxing which is the short form of document and refers to the process of finding sharing and publishing of the personally identified information’s of the people (Thackray et al. 2017) that are found on the web or website or forum or any type of other venues accessed by the public and this mainly includes full legal names addresses and many more personal data, DDoS or the denial of distributed service which is a more common type of hacktivism which is simple due to its effectiveness, data breaches this is familiar to the idea of identity theft and finally the vandalizing or hijacking of online properties and this one of the popular hacktivism activity, cracking of the code into the back end of a targeted website with the intended effect which aims at disrupting the website’s message in some way. Hacktivists are able to make use of the data available on the social media (Richterich et al 2017).

Precautions to Prevent Hacktivism

In the year of 2015 Anonymous posted a video which declared a war on the ISIS. Anonymous was able to identify various accounts associated with twitter so as to stop the distribution of propagandas that are associated with the ISIS. Anonymous is the most prolific hacktivist group which is well known for a number of hacks that it has made over the last few years. This group started to operate in the year of 2003 but was not prominent until the year of 2008. It became prominent after the its attack on the “Church of Scientology” in a massive DoS attack.

For the purpose of carrying out their operations what the hacktivist do is they create new tools on regular basis or integrate the software’s that are available in the internet. Software’s or the websites are used so as to achieve the political purposes. Website mirroring is the technique used for circumventing the tools for bypassing the censorship blocks present on the websites (Cammaerts 2013). This is the technique which involves the coping of the contents of a censored website and then posting it on the various domains and the subdomains which are not censored. Geo-bombing is which the geo-tags are added by the netizens during the editing process of the YouTube videos so as to display the videos on the google earth. Anonymous blogging refers to the process of speaking out dedicating the wide audience about the issues that are related to the human rights and many more by utilizing the tools present in the web that are free. IP masking and blogging software is used for the purpose of preserving the anonymity that is of high level (Wazid et al. 2013). RECAP is the free software made by the “liberate US case law” making it take the form of the distributed document collection and archival.

Conclusion

Along with the evolution of hacktivism it is also creating a striking opportunity for various groups for a good cause. Hacktivists must abandon attacks like the DDoS and which mainly focuses on the online demonstrations like the SOPA blackout. Hacktivists mainly aims at the serving for the good cause of the public by stealing of the personal data about the public and the threatening corporations associated with data loss of the specific data that does the opposite thing. DDoS is becoming more and more popular due to the fact that they are extremely insignificant in the running of the websites. Two different paths can be taken by hacktivists and this includes Militant and activist. A militant in an internet will take no prisoners and along with that they will destroy the networks and the systems of the enemies. An activist is a person who will raise millions of support against the enemies. Hacktivists cannot be taken seriously unless and until the values and the goals of them are made clear to the public instead of that they will just make splashes in the ocean of the web. A digital weapon has been added by the hacktivist in the digital arsenal of the common world. Without hacktivism people will use the conventional methods of protesting that is by rallies and marches which is often proved as ruthless in many cases.

References:

Anderson, T.G., 2015. Adapting Unconventional Warfare Doctrine to Cyberspace Operations: An Examination of Hacktivist Based Insurgencies. ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLLEGE FORT LEAVENWORTH KS.

Applegate, S., 2015. Cyber Conflict: Disruption and Exploitation in the Digital Age. In Current and Emerging Trends in Cyber Operations (pp. 19-36). Palgrave Macmillan UK.

Aviles, G., 2015. How US political and socio-economic trends promotes hacktivist activity (Doctoral dissertation, Utica College).

Bodford, J.E. and Kwan, V.S., 2017. A Game Theoretical Approach to Hacktivism: Is Attack Likelihood a Product of Risks and Payoffs?. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.

Cammaerts, B., 2013. Networked Resistance: the case of WikiLeaks. Journal of Computer?Mediated Communication, 18(4), pp.420-436.

Deseriis, M., 2016. Hacktivism: On the Use of Botnets in Cyberattacks. Theory, Culture & Society, p.0263276416667198.

Fish, A. and Follis, L., 2015. Edgework, state power, and hacktivists. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 5(2), pp.383-390.

Follis, L. and Fish, A.R., 2017. Half-Lives of Hackers and the Shelf Life of Hacks. Limn, (8).

Micali, A., 2016. Hacktivism and the heterogeneity of resistance in digital cultures (Doctoral dissertation, University of Lincoln).

Milan, S., 2015. Hacktivism as a radical media practice.

PytlikZillig, L.M., Wang, S., Soh, L.K., Tomkins, A.J., Samal, A., Bernadt, T.K. and Hayes, M.J., 2015. Exploring Reactions to Hacktivism Among STEM College Students: A Preliminary Model of Hacktivism Support and Resistance. Social Science Computer Review, 33(4), pp.479-497.

Richterich, A., Wenz, K., Abend, P., Fuchs, M., Reichert, R., Bakardjieva, M., Beaton, B., Berry, D., Burgess, J., Coté, M. and Cremin, C., 2017. Making and Hacking.

Solomon, R., 2017. Electronic protests: Hacktivism as a form of protest in Uganda. Computer Law & Security Review.

Tanczer, L.M. and Tanczer, L., 2015. Hacking the Label: Hacktivism, Race, and Gender. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, (6).

Thackray, H., Richardson, C., Dogan, H., Taylor, J. and McAlaney, J., 2017. Surveying the Hackers: The Challenges of Data Collection from a Secluded Community.

Wazid, M., Katal, A., Goudar, R.H. and Rao, S., 2013, April. Hacktivism trends, digital forensic tools and challenges: A survey. In Information & Communication Technologies (ICT), 2013 IEEE Conference on (pp. 138-144). IEEE.

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