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Hactivism and Cyber Terrorism

Recent media has highlighted the potential ramifications of politically motivated hacking. Discuss the potential consequences of politically motivated hacking and evaluate the effectiveness of our current defence against it.

during the recent years, a new type of threat has emerged to the Internet. Therefore the weapon of hacking is increasingly used by different persons for promoting their political ideology. And for this purpose, these persons are involved in distributed citizen-based warfare. Hactivists and related with them are the cyber terrorists have not resulted in a considerable risk on the Internet, but in two of the fact that they are becoming more organized and using more sophisticated tools for using the Internet for their objectives, the use of this method of communication is going to have far-reaching effects. While activism has been described as non-disruptive use of Internet for ideological reasons, in case of hactivism the hacking apparatus is used for promoting the cause of the activists in a disruptive, but violent or not serious way. In this context, hactivism has been described as the "portmanteau of hack and activism". It is the peaceful use of legal or illegal, indistinct digital tools to achieve political objectives (Cammaerts, 2007). Some of the tools used by the politically motivated hackers include website defacements, redirects or the denial of service attacks. Similarly, they also include website parodies, information theft, virtual sabotage, software development and virtual sit-ins.

The progression of hactivism takes the form of cyber terrorism. In this case, politically motivated hacking is used for creating economic havoc and loss of life. All the three activities are commonly known as the part of new netwar era. Therefore it has been stated that hactivism combines, hacking and activism or in other words, technology and politics. At the same time, during the recent years, hactivism has also been described as the electronic civil disobedience or by some other experts as digital cultural jamming (Carey, 1989). This method is particularly attractive for politically motivated hactivists because it provides global visibility, low cost of operation and also the difficulty that is present in prosecution.


Culture jamming: politically motivated hacking has also been described as culture jamming. In this context, culture jamming has been described as the exploitation of mass media by activists and artists. In the majority of the cases the purpose is to critique the abolition of reality by media, question corporate power or to lampoon consumerism. In case of culture jamming, billboard banditry is involved as the billboards are defaced for the purpose of creating new meaning that undermines the intention of the advertisers (Comor, 2001). Such action amounts to political activism in its intent instead of vandalism, although it may be considered by many as vandalism. An example of culture jamming is present in the form of Adbusters as their website reveals the method of using culture jamming for the purpose of creating alternative meanings or to deal with hegemony. According to some persons, all types of when there is and can be described as a form of activism even if there were no political intentions behind the act.

Culture Jamming and Political Activism

The multinational corporations remain the major target of culture jamming, as their practices and globalization have been targeted. In this case, the purpose is to undermine and defy the authority of these corporations and innovate to expose the actions of these corporations towards the general public. Hacking or politically motivated hacking is used for disrupting services. At the same time is also a tool that is used for increasing awareness. Hactivists can also take recourse to malicious software for the purpose of spreading their message. On the basis of the perspective of each person, hacking can also be considered as vandalism regardless of the fact that the causes for doing so are acceptable. In this way, hacking has been treated as unethical and illegal (Deibert, 1997). Several different terms now being used for hacking like electronic civil disobedience, hactivism, digital activism or cyber terrorism, depending on the parties involved in hacking and who is being hacked.


In this context, it will be helpful to talk about the parties concerned with hacking. The Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC) is based in Texas USA. It is a major media website that is similar to Adbusters in some ways even if it focuses on privacy and access to information as a basic human right. They believe that access to information allows the people to be informed decisions. In terms of philosophy, these organizations have many things, and with Electronic Frontier Foundation. At the same time, CDC is also a major developer of privacy and security tools that are generally offered to the public for free of cost. Similarly CDC also takes partisan many other groups like Hactivismo and Ninja Strike Force. Another international group of hackers is Hacktivismo. It includes the lawyers, human rights workers and artists and reward from the CDC. This group has assumed an ethical point of departure from the principles that have been mentioned in the Universal declaration on human rights and also in the international convention on civil and political rights. This group is in support of free software and open source movement. Some of the other organizations that are involved in similar hactivism are CDC, Electric Hippies and Etoy. The debate has been going on within these groups regarding what can be considered as acceptable ethical behavior in context of hacking activities.

A number of companies have also been launched by CDC with a view to expose the censorship imposed on the Internet in China. China is generally considered as the most controlled Internet service globally. In order to clearly explain the meaning of politically motivated hacking, some occurrences and activist groups that are particularly active in this field have been mentioned below.

Hacktivist Groups and Corporate Targets

For example, throughout the Iranian protests that took place in June 2009, Internet, particularly Twitter, Facebook and YouTube played an important role in communicating messages that were used for organizing the protest. The riots that took place in this time were a reaction to the result of elections, in which the incumbent conservative prime minister has been re-elected. However these results were contested by a large number of people in the country and also by international observers (Deibert, Palfrey, Rohozinski and Zittrain, Eds. 2008). At this point, it is worth mentioning that Iran was the most extensive editing system for the Internet in the world and at the same time there are aggressive online censorship policies present in the country. Still, the opposition was extensively using Facebook, which was unblocked in the country only in February 2009 but again, it was shut down in May 2009 as a part of the preparations being made for the elections. Activists and anti-government forces used Facebook for organizing mass political rallies, and also for discussing political opinion.

At the same time, Twitter was also extensively used by the pro-democracy campaigners. This medium was used for spreading information how the proxy server restrictions can be bypassed. It needs to be noted that the response of the activists and hactivists was spontaneous to the Iranian protests and they had extensively used the medium of twitter. There was even a "cyber war guide for beginners" that was aimed at providing more information regarding the ways to protect the identity of the protesters who were using the service and also to make the general public aware of the techniques used by the regime for curbing the utilization of the Internet by opposition (Drache and Beyer, 1996).


These days, hacking has also become a part of the techniques that are used by the protesters for disrupting the government. The call to hack government websites and news outlets has been placed on Twitter. Moreover, links to websites that posted which provided detailed information on how to disrupt or disable the official websites of the government. After the election, the US President Obama had requested that the scheduled maintenance shutdown of Twitter should be postponed for some time (Innis, 1951). The research that was conducted in this regard also revealed that most of these messages and the links to proxy server exploits and hacking tools were posted from the Western nations, and particularly from the United States of America.  In this way, the hactivists have come up with a way to use their joint power and outrage as a severe weapon that can be used by them and will and with no need for basing its consequences. Some other experts claim that the hactivists have discovered a method to carry out distributed citizen-based warfare (McLuhan and Fiore, 1967).

Iranian Protests and the Role of Hacking

At the same time, an ethical debate has been going on Twitter between the supporters regarding the use of DDoS attacks and regarding the fact that these attacks restricted the freedom of speech. In this context, it has been stated that some experts have been worried that such DDoS strikes may use the inadequate bandwidth that is accessible in Iran. According to one poster, it was mentioned, "quit with the DDoS attacks, they are simply slowing down traffic in Iran and making it more difficult for the protesters to tweet". An example of such an incident is the individuals like a technologist working in San Francisco and who operates using the name, Austin Heap. He had placed instructions for the people how they can access hacking tools and how they can set the proxy servers, with the help of which, people can circumvent the firewalls installed by the government. However, it is also worth mentioning that there is no evidence that may reveal the involvement of the US government in supporting such illegal activities like the individuals who are posting said material on the social networking sites does not have any obvious thing with the government. But in terms of the hegemony, when the twitter posts were analyzed, it was found that they were in support of democratic system and liberty of information that may be considered as being according to Western hegemony. Consequently, while the local protesters in Iran were actively taking part in debates going on the social media, a large number of English-based posts were also appearing that can be presumed as exterior international posts (Samuuel, 2004).

Melbourne international film Festival: before the start of the Melbourne international film Festival, request was made by the Chinese comes late in Australia that the organizers of the festival should be no particular documentary, 10 Conditions of Love. This documentary was based on Rebya Kadeer, the Uighur leader. However, the organizers of the film festival refused to do so. They claimed that they were an independent organization and they were not bound to remove the documentary film. In July 2009, it was portrayed by the international press that several hacking attacks have taken place on the website of the Melbourne international film Festival. These attacks raise in retaliation of the screening of the documentary. At the same time, several other filmmakers from China had withdrawn their work from the film festival as a protest against the Kadeer documentary (China summons Australia over Uighur leader visit, 2009). Similarly are sponsored from Hong Kong had also withdrawn from the film festival. The Chinese government summoned the Australian ambassador in China for discussions. During these hacking attacks, the Chinese flag was embedded on the website of the film festival. E-mail attacks also took place on the website. These hacking attacks were reported by the China Daily, but at the same time it was also mentioned that the government of China did not have anything to do with these attacks. A hacker, Old Jun had also left a calling card of the website of the film festival. Similarly another attack occurred during the subsequent week of the film festival. As a result of this attack, the booking system on the website of the festival was flooded with bogus ticket requests.

Ethical Debates Surrounding DDoS Attacks


Appropriate response: it is generally said that the terrorist for one person is often the freedom fighter for another person. The same can also be applied in case of hactivists. Sometimes the actions of hactivists are also in the interests of the governments. Therefore the actions of hactivists in the West throughout the protests going on in Iran can be considered as the promotion of free speech by the governments; on the other hand, the government in Iran would have considered these actions to be an interference in the internal politics of the country. Similarly, this principle can also be applied in case of the Chinese hackers as they enjoyed the implicit support provided by the government of China. Generally the same tactics are used by most of these groups. Their purpose is to disrupt communication by using the Internet. Gilded, no evidence has been unearthed which may provide that the hactivists involved in the protests in Iran and the attacks that took place on Melbourne international film Festival were detained. In a large number of countries, including Australia, USA, China and Iran there are legislations that prohibit hacking. In fact, the hacking laws in the US are more strict than the hacking laws in China.

Conclusion: it this way, it can be stated that with the advancements made in the Internet and globalization, there are several ways in which new challenges are being posed for international relations. In a way, the hackers are really acting for supporting the political policies of their respective countries. In this way the politically motivated hacking attacks symbolize a new type of civic participation in global relations.

Under these circumstances, it can be stated that the body present between activism and terrorism is increasingly becoming blurred. Several hacking organizations have adopted a particularly aggressive type of what is called by them as "activism". They target property instead of people, these organizations have bombed animal research facilities as they want to induce the victims to adopt more animal friendly and environment friendly policies and practice. However, the tactics adopted by these organizations are similar to the tactics adopted by terrorists as they are also involved in physical force, but the difference present between the two is that they allow the archive to avoid human casualties. In this way, politically motivated hacking has exposed the inadequacies that are present in existing patchwork that is offered by various regimes. The lack of regulation or penalties for being involved in politically motivated hacking provides an advantage to some states over the others.

But at the same time, it also needs to be noted that this challenge has been recognized by various states, for the purpose of addressing the threat to national security caused the technology enabled world. A part of the solution appears to be effective population and in the end intra-governmental levels, and between the states and private actors.

References

Cammaerts, B. 2007, Jamming the Political: Beyond Counter-hegemonic Practices. Continuum, 21(1), 71-90.

Carey, J. W. 1989, Space Time and Communications: A Tribute to Harold Innis. In Hyams (Ed.), Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society. London: Unwin.

China summons Australia over Uighur leader visit. 2009, Sat Aug 1, 2009 6:16am AEST ). Retrieved August 1 2009

Comor, E. 2001, Harold Innis and the Bias of Communication. Information, Communication & Society, 4(2), 274-294.

Deibert, R. J. 1997, Parchment, Printing, and Hypermedia Communication in World Order Transformation. New York: Columbia University Press.

Deibert, R. J., Palfrey, J. G., Rohozinski, R., & Zittrain, J. (Eds.). 2008, Access Denied:The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

Drache, D., & Beyer, R. 1996, States Against Markets: The Limits of Globalisation. London: Routledge

Innis, H. A. 1951,  The Bias of Communication. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

McLuhan, M., & Fiore, Q. 1967, The medium is the message. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Samuuel, A. 2004, Hactivism and the Future of Political Participation, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

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