Hacktivism Definition and Examples

By | January 30, 2016

Hacktivism, hacker activists, has altered the landscape of political discourse and advocacy. It is meant as a tool to influence national and foreign policies with the Internet’s easy availability to mainstream society grew a political fever between both the sides of the hacker ethical spectrum (Schell & Martin, 2006). Hacktivists use the Internet to engage free speech and propaganda worldwide spreading not only their agenda to their country but influencing other subcultures around the world (Schell & Martin, 2006). An equally other effective mean for hacktivism is the denial for information, by not allowing the flow of information to educate the citizens of the country to make a consensus action. Looking at hacktivism through a conflict viewpoint gives the best understanding of the outcomes of these hacker activists.

Hacktivism because of its mainstream presence online has large impacts on individuals, companies, and governments. Hacktivism is a bit more than a group of picketers because this occurs at the macro level.

Hacktivism can also be demonstrated through the powers of government against other governments. The United States verse China in a digital arms race has shown a macro struggle between the government and economic systems. These are maintained through a force of governmental power shown through cyberspace. Presented through these two articles, hacktivism is shown through power between superpower nations.

One Monday morning in the beginning of January 2010, Pentagon leaders gathered to simulate how they would respond in an erudite cyberattack looking to paralyzing the nation’s critical infrastructure including but not limited to power grids, communication systems, or financial networks (Markoff et al., 2011).

The most important part here is the communication systems. At the turn of the millennium telecommunication and Internet communication, has been the underlying framework of the new corporate America. Not allowing the freedom of information flowing across the United States would yield a deterrent blow to mass media, social networking, and would unplug millions of Americans relying on these communication information systems for everyday life.

“Policy experts are just beginning to ask some of these questions as the cyber-weapons buildup begins… By one estimate, more than 100 nations are now amassing cyber-military capabilities. This does not just mean erecting electronic defenses. It also means developing offensive weapons” (Clayton, 2011).

“Here’s the problem – it’s 1946 in cyber,” says James Mulvenon, a founding member of the Cyber Conflict Studies Association, a nonprofit group in Washington. “So we have these potent new weapons, but we don’t have all the conceptual and doctrinal thinking that supports those weapons or any kind of deterrence. Worse, it’s not just the US and Soviets that have the weapons – its millions and millions of people around the world that have these weapons” (Clayton, 2011).

The millions and millions of people who have these weapons are the very nature of hacktivism. Anyone at anywhere during anytime can launch an information war front to spread their activist cause. The two articles explain what could occur if the United States Government or Chinese Government launched a cyber-attack for either political or economic means. This could very well undermine the entire cultural system set in place by either nation. These articles show what damage either country can do in terms of harming another individual; however, they fail to address the social order these attacks can possess.

Focusing more on China the group called Honkers meaning “Red Hackers” use public web forums or bulletin board systems to organize attacks, attract public support through volunteering and demonstrations of success as sort of a testimonial to their causes. Creating equality between their member-base, like Marxism, many elite users of the forum will offer free technical training to help gain loyalty into the group and allow even more followers for their hacktivists agenda.

These hacktivists groups deface web pages by changing the source code of the web page or injecting their own web page showing their demonstration. Many of these defaced web pages are often on symbolic targets of the opposing group and will relay a message to the followers of the opposing group, exposing the hacktivists’ beliefs while trying to drive up public support against the opposing group.

Michael Yip believes the Theoretical Framework of the reason for large hacktivism in China has to do with the social identity theory where the ingroup members need the ability to distinguish themselves from an out-group and that along causes the conflict.

This illustrates the growing divide between China and its own people. There is a large amount of reminding of Chinese superiority within its own nation through national humiliation and negative portrayal of foreign nations notably the United States. They are also educating to feel relatively deprived to foreign nations with an increase sense of national identity in the need to distinguish from foreign nations. The Chinese people need a way to vent out emotions but physical protest is highly restricted. Does anyone remember Tiananmen Square?

Although, China is not the lone country trying to show superiority to their citizens; we the People, of the United States, are as guilty as charged, in addition. Anonymous and LulzSec has showed the United States Government it will not continue to walk as sheep. WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street have just been some supported hacktivists efforts by Anonymous.

LulzSec has done corporate and government hacking with leaking personalized information of the organization’s database. Their hacktivism banner claimed: “It has come to our unfortunate attention that NATO and our good friend Barrack Osama-Llama 24th-century Obama have recently upped the stakes with regard to hacking. They now treat hacking as an act of war. So, we just hacked an FBI affiliated website (Infragard, specifically the Atlanta chapter) and leaked its user base. We also took complete control over the site and defaced it.”

Both China and the United States have homegrown hacktivists trying to change people’s opinions and social viewpoints towards political issues; in addition, both countries through cyber and information warfare have shown hacktivism against the governments themselves. Both parties are trying escape from what Karl Marx would define as the ruling class and subject class.

The teachings of both the United States and China are created to show power within its own border and to follow their countries belief system without hesitation. This is reinforced through latent functions as Americans and Chinese learn the dominance of their citizenship in effort to control the actions of their stakeholders.

Where this is patriotic on both parties, I believe this solely contributes to the underlining problem of the conflict theory. Capitalism towards cybercrime and hacktivism protection is at all time high and rightfully so as this nation was born on free enterprise. Estimated budget money the United States Department of Defense will put into research and development for Cybersecurity and protection of our assets is at a staggering $140.8 billion dollars (“DoD Cybersecurity Spending,” 2011).

Conflict Theory has been proven to be the best method to look at Hacktivism; Hacktivists use the Internet to engage free speech and propaganda worldwide spreading not only their agenda to their country but influencing other subcultures around the world (Schell & Martin, 2006). This is done by creating an unequal balance of power and side subcultures of Marxism despite Functionalists perspective efforts. After looking at hacktivism through a conflicting viewpoint truly gives us the best understanding of the outcomes of these hacker activists.

Clayton, M. (2011, March 7). The new cyber arms race. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from http://www.csmonitor.com/‌USA/‌Military/‌2011/‌0307/‌The-new-cyber-arms-race
Delio, M. (2001, April 30). It’s (Cyber) War: China vs. U.S. Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/‌politics/‌law/‌news/‌2001/‌04/‌43437?currentPage=all
DoD Cybersecurity Spending: Where’s the Beef? (2011, June 14). Defense Industry Daily.
Markoff, J., Sanger, D. E., & Shanker, T. (2010, January 25). In Digital Combat, U.S. Finds No Easy Deterrent. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/‌2010/‌01/‌26/‌world/‌26cyber.html
Schaefer, R. T. (2011). Sociology A BRIEF INTRODUCTION (9th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. (Original work published 1994)
Schell, B., & Martin, C. (2006). Webster’s New World Hacker Dictionary. Indianapolis, IN: Wiley Publishing.
Yip, M. (2011). Hacktivism: a Theoretical and Empirical Exploration of China’s Cyber Warriors (C. Webber, Ed.). Retrieved from University of Southampton website: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/‌272350/‌1/‌59_paper.pdf