04 April 2019

What is a hacktivist/what is hacktivism?

From what is a “hacktivist/hacktivism” to how to guard yourself.

The first thing we need to know about a hacktivist/hacktivism is: what do the terms mean? To put it simply, a hacktivist (a mix of the words hacker and activist) is a person or group of people who gain unauthorised access to computer networks or websites to convey political or social messages. They do this by performing disruptive activities including website defacement, information theft and denial-of-service attacks (DoS). This act is called hacktivism.

Who do hacktivist target and why?

Due to the scale of the internet, anything and anyone can become a target – the whole world is online. Most hacktivists target large corporations, governments and political leaders due to their difference of opinion in either political or religious views. They have also gone after smaller organisations or those who have little to no security to defend themselves digitally.

Examples include local police departments and hospitals, and these are usually the most successful attacks due to the lack of cybersecurity.

Hacktivists use an abundance of ways to spread their message:

Website defacement/vandalising – One of the most common activities of hacktivism, website defacement can disrupt a website’s functionality, usually by plastering unwanted images or messages continuously throughout a page or by stopping users from posting/messaging on the site. Social media platforms are usually targets of website defacement but this can also harm other properties such as email structures, telephone services and emergency services.

Doxing – From the word “document” or “doc”, doxing is the process of finding, sharing and publicising personal information of people who are on the web whether it be via a website, forum or other venues. The information taken can include full names, addresses (all types inc. work and email addresses) phone numbers and important financial information. All this sensitive and private information can then be leaked or used maliciously.

Data breaches – A breach of security which is likely to lead to identity theft. It takes personal information and uses this data to commit fraud, transfer money illegally, apply for credit cards or loans, stealing intellectual property etc.

DDoS – Short for “Distributed Denial of Service”.  It works by sending a huge amount of traffic to a website, making it lag or even crash completely, rendering it useless for users. This traffic can be full of Trojans and stops users being able to get to their desired destination.

How do you guard against hacktivism?

It is important to take precautions on the internet due to the vast amount of information it can collect from you and your business.

These are some stay-safe ways against unwanted intrusion from outside sources:

  • Use a creditable antivirus security system and detection programme
  • Be careful that none of your personal information is easily available or accessible
  • Make sure your social media accounts and passwords are unattainable

With the internet becoming more advanced, it is important to keep all your systems updated regularly.