Analysis of Hacktivism on Social Change – Term Paper Example

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The paper "Analysis of Hacktivism on Social Change" is a great example of a term paper on media. 1. Introduction to Hacktivism As businesses put their operations online, the attractiveness of the Internet as a means of conducting a protest has also increased. It has now become common for protestors to take down websites or deny the businesses legitimate access to the sites for political reasons using denial-of-service attacks (Fitri 2011). These protestors (hacktivists) are essentially hackers who use similar tools and techniques to disrupt online services so as to bring attention to their political cause (Li, 2013).

It has therefore become important that businesses take necessary measures to protect themselves from these attacks. Hacktivism is the use of electronic media to influence social change (Li, 2013). It also refers to the destruction and malicious behavior towards organizational information systems and the Internet for political reasons. This phenomenon gained popularity after a political group called Anonymous engaged in a number of cyber-attacks against companies, which suspended their services to WikiLeaks (Fitri 2011; Yip & Webber 2011). Hacktivist attacks may comprise of distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), Internet worms, and website defacements.

Hacktivists may use DDoS to bring down a company website or to interrupt Internet activity by sending many requests to a server to cause the temporary shutdown of the server. DDoS attacks on corporate include web sit-ins or email bombing. Alternatively, companies may have their websites defaced or altered by hacktivists as a way of propagating a political message. Lastly, hacktivists may use Internet worms, which are programs that spread within a network to spread a message or disrupt an activity (Hampson 2012) 2.

Why Is Hacktivism a Recent Issue? Hacktivist attacks have increased over the years. Instances of Internet disruption include the takedown of eBay in 2001, hacking of the New York Times website in 2002, and hacking of WikiLeaks in 2006 and 2010. This hacking has significant technical and financial implications for the affected companies. In 2010, WikiLeaks’ website crashed and remained inaccessible for more than 24 hours. According to Hampson (2012), the website crashed after posting more than 250,000 classified documents obtained from the United States (US) government. The Hacktivist, named The Jester, had hacked into WikiLeaks to prevent the public from accessing the documents claiming that the publications endangered the lives of the US military and foreign relations.

WikiLeaks had to switch its website-hosting provider and sourced bandwidth from Amazon. Amazon recanted its service from WikiLeaks after a Senator questioned the company involved with the whistleblower website. WikiLeaks moved to another website hosting service provider but later moved due to the frequency of DoS attacks. The website gained stability after it developed mirror websites (pp. 511-2). The hacktivist attacks on WikiLeaks also had financial repercussions.

PayPal canceled an account held by WikiLeaks for receiving donations (Kelly 2013). The website could no longer receive online donations from international supporters. MasterCard and Visa also suspended WikiLeaks payments while PostFinance, a Swiss bank, closed the account of the website’ s founder, Julian Assange. The Bank of America also refused to process WikiLeaks payment citing concerns about WikiLeaks’ engagement in activities that contradicted the bank’ s internal policies (Hampson 2012, p. 513). These actions instigated further hacktivism as groups of people, referred to as Anonymous, hacked into the websites of companies that opposed WikiLeaks.

This mission was declared Operation Payback and was aimed at raising the awareness of WikiLeaks and its opponents who were perceived to fight for censorship (Hampson 2012; Yip & Webber 2011). In WikiLeaks’ case, the website’ s DoS attacks by hackers and suspension by financial institutions led to hacktivism by the Anonymous group (Kelly, 2013; Mansfield-Devine, 2011). Unlike hacking which is motivated by fraudulent goals, hacktivism is motivated by political concerns. It is more communicative and less destructive than hacking because it is regarded as a form of protest.


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Hampson, N C 2012, ‘Hacktivism: A new breed of protests in a networked world’, Boston College International & Comparative Law Review, vol.35, pp.511-542.

Kelly, BB 2012, ‘Investing in a centralized cybersecurity infrastructure: Why hactivism can and should influence cybersecurity reform’, Boston University Law Review, vol.92, pp.1663-1711.

Kluitenberg, HF 2014, ‘Security risk management in IT small and medium enterprises’, Paper presented at the 20th Twente Student Conference on IT, Enschede, The Netherlands.

Li, X 2013, ‘Hacktivism and the first amendment: Drawing the line between cyber protests and crime’, Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, vol.27, no.1, pp.301-329.

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Udo-Akang, D 2014, ‘Cyber perspectives: Internet exploitation and business survivability’, International Journal of Business, Humanities and Technology, vol.4, no.2, pp.15-27.

Yip, M & Webber, C 2011, ‘Hacktivism: A theoretical and empirical exploration of China’s cyber warriors’, Presentation at the 2011 WebSci, Koblenz, Germany.

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