Hacktivism Essay Examples
Corse Number and Title
Hacktivism refers to the use of computers or computer networks as a tool of political protest, dissent, and social change. Accordingly a hacktivist is someone who “hacks” technology to support their personal activism goals. Contrary to popular belief, hacktivism is not a new phenomenon (Paget, 2012). But two recent events have reintroduced hacktivism to the public’s attention. The first event was the November 2014, hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment by a group known as the Guardians of Peace (GOP). GOP threatened to leak Sony’s internal information if Sony did not obey their commands to cancel the release of the movie “The Interview” (Seal, 2015). The second event was the Christmas Day 2014, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against Microsoft which knocked its Xbox Live Gaming Network offline for a little over 24 hours. A group known as the Lizard Squad claimed responsibility and argued, among other points, that they initiated the attacks because they wanted expose Microsoft’s “lax security” as well as emphasize that Christmas should not be about “children playing with their new consoles” but rather “them spending time with their families and celebrating” (Blake & Butterly, 2015).
Cyber-crimes is commonly defined as an activity where; a computer is a target of the crime; a computer is a tool of a crime; a computer is used to facilitate an ordinarily non-computer crime; but for computers the crime could not have occurred (Kerr, 2006). Accordingly, under this definition, the Sony and Microsoft attacks were clearly cyber-crimes. In both cases, not only where computers the targets of the attacks but also the attacks, especially the DDoS attacks could not have been performed without other computers. Moreover, the attacks, particularly in the case of Sony, facilitated “brick and mortar” crimes, namely blackmail and theft. Lastly, the attacks are the result of our increasingly computer driven and networked world.
Even if a hacktivist activity can be defined as a cybercrime, the question becomes should it be. In these two cases, the answer is yes. In regards to the Sony attack, GOP clearly went well beyond what could be considered activism (Seal, 2015). It “doxed” or released private and personal information about actors, producers and Sony staff that had nothing to do with the making, distribution or control of “The Interview.” They also published and distributed documents and other content from music and film-makers (who may have actually agreed with their political ideology) for free. In short, their actions were more criminal than activist and so should be treated as any other crime. The case for the Microsoft attack is a little more complicated. Most would agree that promoting the family values of Christmas is a worthwhile endeavor. Furthermore, the attack simple knocked the network offline. There was no apparent release of private or personal information. To be sure, networks going offline can be caused by a number of issues none of which are criminally inspired. So the initial way to look at the attack is as an activist event. It was later reported, however, that the attackers only stopped the attacks after they were given vouchers to another website with a high monetary value (Fung & Peterson, 2014). This makes it seem as though the Lizard Squad attacked for purely financial goals in mind. As a result they should be charged with a crime.
Generally, government assistance for most hacktivist events against private firms would not be helpful. Powerful organizations such as Sony and Microsoft should have the personnel, tools and resources to solve the situation on their own. Smaller firms can seek the assistance of security experts such to help them resolve any issues. However, when there is evidence that the hacktivist activity had or may have received state support, as was the case with the Sony attack, and then the government should offer its support. This is because there are only a few private organizations that have the resources and skills to counter a state-sponsored attack. Furthermore, the government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and organizations from foreign political interference which a hacktivist attack clearly includes.
As mentioned, the fundamental force underlying hacktivism is ancient idea of political protest and political activism. Naturally, it can be used for both good and evil purposes. Moreover, where a hacktivist event is good or evil depends on your personally point of view. Clearly, GOP felt their hack of Sony was righteous; while Sony considered it a blatant crime. So when is hacktivism worthy of support? Hacktivism that challenges state and corporate interests in the form of speech and collective action and other forms of protest (a DDoS attack seen as a traditional sit-in) should seriously be considered worth support. They fundamental line being that the activity is not extreme, radicalized or seriously destructive. Alternatively, hacktivism that is done for a criminal purpose; for financial gain, in the name of death, destruction and harm should be considered criminal activity and treated accordingly.
Blake, J., & Butterly, A. (2015, Jan. 27). Who are Lizard Squad and what’s next for the hackers? Retrieved on February 9, 2015, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/30306319
Fung, B., & Peterson, A. (2014, Dec. 26). Meet the Grinch who stole Christmas for gamers: The Lizard Squad. Retrieved on February 9, 2015, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/12/26/meet-lizard-squad-the-group-claiming-responsibility-for-ruining-christmas-for-gamers/
Kerr, O. (2009). Computer Crime Law (2nd ed.). St. Paul, MN: West.
Paget, F. (2012). Hacktivism: Cyberspace has become the new medium for political voices. Retrieved on February 9, 2015, from http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/white-papers/wp-hacktivism.pdf
Seal, M. (2015). An Exclusive Look at Sony’s Hacking Saga. Retrieved on February 9, 2015, from http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2015/02/sony-hacking-seth-rogen-evan-goldberg
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