Is Hacktivism A Cybercrime Or A Social Cause?
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “a hacker?” Perhaps, it has to do with someone that should be well behind bars already, right?
Now, undeniably, that’s easily thought about by almost everyone – that a hacker is a criminal intent looking for self-financial gain. Unfortunately, that’s not always true.
Did you even read it correctly? – Some hackers are helpful?
Now, truth be told, some hackers could aim to achieve social, religious, or political justice in conjunction with the cause of the group. So, what’s Hacktivism?
Meaning Of Hacktivism
You might be asking; is Hacktivism both a crime and some kind of social cause?
Perhaps, hacktivism involves the use of hacking or related techniques to promote a social or political agenda. For instance, human rights, all the issues surrounding free speech, and the freedom of information are some examples of common hacktivist causes.
Basically, such hacker groups target corporations or governments to ensure that they bring the matter to the public. Also, apart from ensuring that the public has been made aware of the issue, they can simply disrupt the activities of the target.
Usually, they achieve their (hacktivists) objective via channels like launching DDoS attacks, leaking private information as well as defacing websites with various political messages.
So, where’s the crime part?
Apparently, as much as the hacktivists will always claim to be working for the benefit of others, the law could be saying otherwise. Therefore, it sometimes falls in the category of cybercrime. For instance, the events that took place in Switzerland recently confirm that scenario.
The Switzerland Event
Hacking to promote social justice! Sounds like a good affair in eyes of the public, right? However, it can still be a risky business.
For instance, the Till Kottmann case in Switzerland highlights that hacktivism can still land one in trouble. In this case, a 21-year-old hacker is indicated for wire fraud, conspiracy as well as aggravated identity theft.
In the case, they allegedly accessed some files from an Intel Corp as well as a security-camera provider (Verkada) that the hacker shared a portion of the data online. It was reported that the information about the Verkada admin’s password and username were “easily” obtained from an
All this was explained as an act of hacktivism and not a cybercrime. However, the Swiss authorities maintain that such leaks merely increase vulnerabilities of not corporations, but also consumers.
So, what is it between hacktivism and the law?
Truthfully, it must be said that hacktivists have continuously experienced a difficult relationship with the law. In most cases, the legal institutions will ignore every ideological agenda provided by hacktivists that prompted their action. Therefore, often such acts are simply assumed to be criminal acts.
Therefore, it’s easy to say that the legal response towards hacktivism is always unforgiving despite every ethical argument. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act in the US is the one that every hacktivism case is based on, meaning it allows for both civil and criminal lawsuits.
However, it too has some contentious features. For instance, it depends on the number of individuals that were affected by the hacker’s actions. Therefore, still, hacktivism even with clear intentions, remains to be a high-risk affair.
Examples Of Hacktivism Cases With Outcomes
You don’t have to be lost here that each hacktivism case will always end in a conviction. In fact, every case is unique. Here are some examples;
The Jeremy Hammond Case
Perhaps, the name is popular among political activities as he had hacked Protest Warrior’s website, the pro-war right-wing group. The intention was to access the account and donate to the left-wing group. Later he was sentenced to two years in prison.
The PayPal Attack
There was a DDoS attack on the PayPal website in 2011, whereby 14 individuals were arrested. The intention was to expose the corporate interests that control the internet and silence the rights of individuals to spread information. Fortunately for them, they avoided jail time.
It's clear as daylight for everyone to see that hacktivism doesn’t clearly fall in one category. Therefore, it has led to several debates on what justifies it as either a social cause method or simply a form of cybercrime. Unfortunately, the affected will always call it a crime, but the end results somehow justify the means.
Whether hacktivism is an act of vigilantes and heroes, or merely cybercriminals hiding behind the mask performing digital attacks, one thing is for sure, the debate shows no sign of stopping any time soon.