The Raison D’être of Hacktivism

// Posted by on 02/28/2012 (10:58 PM)

After an Anonymous attack against the Vatican failed, Imperva, a data-protection firm, began to analyze it in order to map out the attack methods. Below is a chart with the discoveries made by Imperva after a failed 25-day assault by the hackers.

This infographic shows the profile of an Anonymous attack (Credit: Imperva)

Perhaps the most interesting part of this article was its discussion of the first phase. In Phase I: Recruiting & Communication, social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) allow the hackers to gain access.

“The raison d’être of hacktivism is to attract attention to a cause, so this phase is critical.”

Personally, I rarely think about my use of social media sites as means for hackers to understand and find targets. However, this report by Imperva proves that without social media channels it would be much more difficult for hackers to find a target and justify their attack. On top of this, social media is used for recruiting purposes: getting volunteers to participate in the hacking campaign during the first phase.

After reading the report, the role of volunteers became clear:

” The Anonymous hackers are comprised of two types of volunteers:

• Skilled hackers – In this campaign, we witnessed a small group of skilled hackers. In total, this group numbered no more
than 10 to 15 individuals. Given their display of hacking skills, one can surmise that they have genuine hacking experience
and are quite savvy.
• Laypeople – This group can be quite large, ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred volunteers. Directed by the skilled
hackers, their role is primarily to conduct DDoS attacks by either downloading and using special software or visiting
websites designed to flood victims with excessive traffic. The technical skills required range from very low to modest.
In this incident, there was about a 10:1 ratio of laypeople to skilled hackers.”

To me, this is the power of groups like Anonymous: its ability to gain volunteers through promotional videos which justify their attacks. The truth is that people choose to support Anonymous. The group is not made up of a small, isolate population; the group is alive because of its ability to connect. Do you think this is what the founders of the internet foresaw for their creation?


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Bridget said...

I am very intrigued by the article Phylicia presents. Like her, I never thought of social media sites, such as the ones I myself utilize, could ever be utilized in hacking attacks, especially such large-scale targeted kinds like this one against the Vatican. However, it makes sense that hackers, like Anonymous, would utilize such mediums to gain support as they truly are a support-based group. Like Brand’s WELL network, these social media sites are tools through which like-minded individuals (or different-minded) can congregate and discuss different topics. I think the very notion of collectives, like Anonymous, utilizing internet social media websites to gain support, power, and action is the exact idea the creators of the internet had when they gave birth to this invention. However, I don’t think they ever wanted (or predicted) this online connectivity would be used in such detrimental, negative ways. Obviously, they were aware of the risk of groups congregating for more negative purposes, but did not look at the larger picture. In other words, at the time of the internet birth, less people were skilled in hacking and were using this tool to transform games, etc., not launch attacks on entire countries (such as the Vatican). I think the internet creators considered the risk of hackers utilizing the internet in terms of harmless, “fun” hacking, not what it has become today, and what Anonymous does and continues to achieve.

// 02/29/2012 at 9:10 pm