Daily Management Review

Global Cybersecurity Woes Made Worse By A New Wave Of ‘Hacktivism’


The world of hacking is being joined by a new generation of youthful hackers - many of whom are reportedly angry about the manner in which the cyber security world operates and unhappy about how tech companies are spreading propaganda on hacking.
There has been a emergence of activist hackers intent on making a political point – posing a new form of cyber threat, even as security agencies in the United States and thousands of companies are trying to ward of major hacking campaigns that have been reported to have their origins in Russia and China.
Three recent activities - the exposure of AI-powered video surveillance that was being conducted by the startup Verkada, making public a collection of videos form the January 6 riot in Washington DC that was conducted by the right-wing social network Parler, and bringing to light the high-tech surveillance systems used by the Myanmar military junta, are among the three major hacks that exhibit the power of this new wave of activist hackism – being called "hacktivism".
A response from the United States government recently has showed that the term hacktivism is being taken seriously by it. 21-year-old Tillie Kottmann, a Swiss hacker who claimed credit for the Verkada breach, was accused of a broad conspiracy in an indictment last week in the US.
"Wrapping oneself in an allegedly altruistic motive does not remove the criminal stench from such intrusion, theft and fraud," Seattle-based Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa Gorman said.
An excerpt from a document related to US counter-intelligence strategy that was released a year ago said that "ideologically motivated entities such as hacktivists, leaktivists, and public disclosure organizations," are now viewed as "significant threats" together with five countries, three terrorist groups, and "transnational criminal organizations."
Pressure from law enforcement had resulted in the fading away of previous waves of hacktivism, most notably those conducted by the amorphous collective known as Anonymous who were active in the early 2010s.
But now there is revelation of the emergence of a new wave of angry and youthful activist hackers.
There are also reports of some of the former members of Anonymous returning to the field which includes Aubrey Cottle, who is known to have been instrumental in reviving the Twitter presence of the group last year which was used in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Attention was drawn to Anonymous followers after they disrupted an app that the Dallas police department was using to field complaints about protesters as the activist hackers flooded it with nonsense traffic. Control of Twitter hashtags promoted by police supporters was also taken by them.
"What’s interesting about the current wave of the Parler archive and Gab hack and leak is that the hacktivism is supporting anti racist politics or anti fascism politics,” said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist at McGill University,Montreal, who wrote a book on Anonymous.
In recent times, QAnon and hategroups have drawn the attention of Cottle.
"QAnon trying to adopt Anonymous and merge itself into Anonymous proper, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back," said Cottle, who has held a number of web development and engineering jobs, including a stint at Ericsson.
Distributed Denial of Secrets, a transparency site that took up the mantle of Wiki Leaks with less geopolitical bias, is the preferred place for the new-wave hacktivists for putting materials they want to make public. Emma Best, an American known for filing prolific freedom of information requests, leads the site’s collective.