Hacktivism and the Rise of Cyberarmies

December 27, 2012

Hacktivism is when an individual or group uses computers and networks to wage a political protest. One of the most well-known hacktivist groups is Anonymous, a group that started in 2003 and has since claimed responsibility for many online protests.

Despite its decade of activity, McAfee Labs sees the influence of Anonymous declining. Too many uncoordinated and unclear operations have been detrimental to its reputation. In addition, the group is spreading disinformation, making false claims, and involved in hacking, which will make the movement less politically visible. In its place, McAfee Labs expects to see a new breed of hacktivists and hackers with clearer political motivations and, in some cases, even more extreme views.

Hacktivism Is Changing
Anonymous is just one aspect of hacktivism. Another more powerful force is people with strong political motivation and high availability over a long term. An excellent example of this was the support for the uprising in Libya, as explained in “Power People 2.0” (MIT Technology Review, April 2012). A hacktivist group, Telecomix, supported the actions of Libyan activists by contributing its high-level hacking techniques. Political activists and hactivists working together for a cause are a powerful combination. In the future, these types of events will be more visible whenever there is a political cause that hacktivists consider just.

Cyberarmies Are Rising
Cyberarmy patriot groups are spreading their extremist views. Until now, these self-organized groups have had little impact — defacing websites or organizing distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. In the future, McAfee Labs researchers predict they will continue to flourish as they become more sophisticated and aggressive. Although these cyberarmy patriot groups are likely to fight amongst themselves, a prime target is likely to be democratic societies.