A New Age of Hacktivism

By neub9
3 Min Read

In the past 2 years, there has been a significant increase in hacktivism activity due to ongoing wars and geopolitical conflicts in various regions. The war against Ukraine, in particular, has led to the mobilization of non-state and state-backed actors, forming new groups or joining existing hacker collectives. Hacktivism is the use of computer hacking to further political or social activism. While activism involves non-disruptive internet use to support a cause, hacktivism includes hacking techniques meant to disrupt, such as data theft, website defacements, and Denial-of-Service attacks. Hacktivist activities that aim to cause physical harm or severe economic damage are considered cyberterrorism, blurring the lines between hacktivism and cyber warfare.

According to Dr. Vasileios Karagiannopoulos and Professor Athina Karatzogianni, hacktivism has become mainstream, testing the virtual limits of symbolic hacks, vigilantism, cyber espionage, and even cyber warfare. Our monitoring of hacktivist groups has increased, and we can now follow their communication channels, such as Telegram. However, dealing with malicious activities on these platforms remains a challenge for digital service providers, as abusers can easily return under different usernames or accounts.

In 2023, we observed a surge in hacktivism activity originating from the war against Ukraine, with Europe being the most impacted geographical region. Pro-Russian hacktivist groups targeted countries providing aid to Ukraine. One such group, Anonymous Sudan, showed inconsistency in its attacks, often claiming motivations that changed frequently. Another group, NoName057(16), consistently targeted NATO member countries and those opposed to Russian interests. Their attacks seemed to correlate with countries’ commitments to support Ukraine.

Moreover, the level of support provided to Ukraine by various countries, as tracked by the Ukraine support tracker project, has been diverse. Governments in Europe announced large emergency funds for themselves, in addition to funds for Ukraine. This context sheds light on the seeming disproportionality of hacktivist attacks in relation to the aid provided to Ukraine.

Overall, the evolving landscape of hacktivism and its impact on political conflicts and cybersecurity continues to pose challenges in a world where the lines between physical and cyber battlefields are increasingly blurred.“`

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