Although we tend to look at cyberterrorism and cyberwar as involving nation states and their agents taking action against other nation states as a substitute for conventional war, the growth of hacktivism opens up a new threat vector.
Hacktivism is essentially the pursuit of political objectives by leveraging technology in alternative and sometimes destructive ways. The activities of the hacktivist are therefore frequently similar to the activities of the garden-variety hacker, but the hacktivist, by definition, is trying to make a point to the public at large. In either case, information may be stolen, servers may be brought to their knees, or websites may be defaced, but the hacktivist wants to change public opinion on the issue that leads them to this behavior.
To those who favor the political position of the hacktivist, the actions may appear to be heroic. To those who oppose that political position, the hacktivist is often viewed in the same light as a cyberterrorist.
One of the more widely known examples involves a group of loosely affiliated hacktivists known as Anonymous. The group's cause celebre is mostly based on digital equality and opposition to Internet censorship and surveillance. Through its activities, the group has gained access to sensitive information and even classified government documents.
In April, Time Magazine named Anonymous as one of the most influential groups of people in the world for 2012. The publication wrote:
"United, if at all, by a taste for shock humor and disdain for authority, this leaderless Internet hive brain is plundering and playing in the electronic networks of an ever shifting enemies list: Arab dictatorships, the Vatican, banking and entertainment firms, the FBI and CIA, the security firm Stratfor and even San Francisco's BART transport system."
Time ended with this question and answer: "Did Anonymous fix the TIME 100 poll? 'Depends who you think is smarter, a global collective of highly skilled hackers or the TIME IT department,' says one fellow traveler, anonymously. Anonymous earned its place on the list, one way or the other."
PUBLISHED NOV. 9, 2012