By: Brooke Lynch

To begin, hacktivism is the act of hacking or breaking into a computer system for a political or socially motivated purpose. Hacktivism is often performed by individuals known as hacktivists; although, they are better recognized as hackers. Unfortunately, a hacktivist is not the same as a hacker. With the rise of technology, hacktivism emerged in the late 1980’s at a time when hacking for enjoyment and profit were becoming threats to individuals (Denning 1). As many may know, when people think of hackers they think of viruses emerging on their computer.

Hacktivism tends to cause a lot of confusion and controversy, because “hackers” (a name that holds negative meaning) and “hacktivists” tend to be one and the same. While some hacktivists have good intentions, others use the window of hacktivism to perform acts which are less than honorable and even illegal, as well as harmful to society (Chadwick 1).

An example of this would be in 1996; hacktivists started attacking different websites by replacing their home pages with messages of protest. In one of the first web interactions performed by hacktivists, an individual changed the homepage of the United States Department of Justice website to read “Department of Injustice” and display pornographic images in protest of the Communications Decency Act (Denning 1).

Whether a hacktivist is hacking into a website or a computer for a good reason, such as eliminating possible threats regarding nuclear warfare, or a bad reason such as displaying pornographic images, hacktivism is a crime. Governments and different organizations internationally want to ensure that the media understands what hacktivism actually is and when to report the crime; especially if it’s major.

Although it may confuse many, most hacktivists are not hackers; hacktivists tend to target a large group or an organization for political and social causes which creates negative conflicts such as attacking one of the parties on social media and withdrawing from commercial or social relations as a type of protest. An example of an individual attacking a party could be for a political reason (like an individual attacking the democratic party and favoring the republican party).

A good example of hacktivism would be the “worms against nuclear killers”. A lot of people are probably unfamiliar with this form of hacktivism that took place in the late 1980’s. To go into detail, the worm against nuclear killers was when different hacktivist individuals in Australia unleashed a deadly computer virus called the “worm”.

Antinuclear Australian hacktivists unleashed this computer virus into the networks of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the US department of energy in 1989 to protest the launch of a shuttle that was carrying radioactive plutonium (Denning 1) This form of hacktivism is beneficial because Australian activists wanted to eliminate the threat of the radioactive plutonium.

It’s relatively difficult to determine whether or not hacktivism is a good or bad thing. Hacktivism can sometimes be used to benefit society but at the same time many individuals have the tendency to hack in inappropriate manners. As stated, an inappropriate manner was when an individual was upset with the department of justice as they hacked into their website in a form of protest.

Also, the constant flow of information can cause a threat to civilians by putting them at risk, not to mention that it gives hacktivists and tech geniuses a bad reputation in the eyes of the public (Chadwick 1). The constant flow of information can be a threat because hacktivists may display more information to the viewer than what is wanted. A child, for example, could be surfing the web and come across pornographic images that a hacktivist displayed.

Although, hacktivism can be a good thing. Much information is spread worldwide that we may (or may not) need to know in relation to our safety. It’s beneficial when knowing what is going on at times (like the nuclear attack stated above!). Overall, hacktivism can cause great stress upon many innocent people as its overall a negative contribution to society.



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“The Rise of Hacktivism.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.

Zamora, Wendy. “10 Ways to Protect against Hackers.” Malwarebytes Labs. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2016.