Cyber Hacktivism in Social Networks

Cyber Hacktivism in Social Networks


Cyber Hacktivism is nothing new as we can find traces of it as early as in 1971. In any case, the term was first used in the 1990s by Omega, as a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) and it became very fashionable and popular.


Hacktivism (derived from the terms hack and activism) is usually defined as the non-violent use of legal and/or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends.

Oxblood Ruffin, from the cDc, defines hacktivism as using technology to improve human rights across electronic media.


Hacktivism has allowed protests and civil disobedience to take place in a new realm: the cyberspace.

Indeed, the causes behind cyber-attacks are mainly politically motivated although the means and motivations may vary depending on the group.

The most common attacks used are:

  • Distributed Denial of Service Attack (DDoS): it makes a machine or network unavailable by disrupting the services of a host connected to the internet. The incoming traffic disrupting the target would come from many different sources.
  • Information Theft: use of stolen information.
  • Data Breaches: the intentional release of private/ confidential information.
  • Website defacement: an attack on a website that changes its visual appearance.
  • Typosquatting: URL hijacking, it relies on mistakes (usually typos) made by internet users while browsing, that will lead them to an alternative URL.

Source: Infosec Institute/ Wikipedia


They go hand in hand. There are some brilliant initiatives like Zero Trollerance or Crash Override, that help the victims (mostly women) who have experienced online abuse.

Source: Oxblood Ruffin


In general, the availability of Social Media has helped to increase the popularity of hacktivism on a larger scale. Nowadays we can’t conceive one without the other as social networks are very effective at recruiting masses and gathering information. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many hacktivists use the social networks to coordinate their activities.

In Social Media, the most common attacks are usually the hacking of legitimate accounts to deface them.

Here are some of the most remarkable attacks in the history of hacktivism:

  • Ashley Madison Data Breach: In 2015, Team Impact stole and released 25 gigabytes of user information from Ashley Madison, a site specialized in extramarital affairs.
  • Worms Against Nuclear Killers: Worm developed by Australian hackers and sent to a computer network shared by the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA.
  • Kosovo War: international hackers launched DoS attacks to raise awareness.
  • Jam Echelon Day: disruption of the ECHELON surveillance system.
  • Occupy Wall Street, Scientology Church and Operation ISIS (Anonymous).
  • Gamma International: Phineas Fisher hacked the spyware maker and released the data in Reddit.
  • Operation Darknet: against child pornography sites.


  • Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc): a very influential computer underground group based in Texas (founded in 1984).
  • Anonymous: they became known to the public in 2008 by posting a YouTube video. Some of their most remarkable actions were the attack against the Church of Scientology, the #opsony campaign. The group also supported WikiLeaks in the beginning and it was very active during the Arab Spring.

  • The Impact Team: an anonymous hacking group responsible for the hacking of Ashley Madison.
  • LulzSec: a black hat hacker group responsible for the compromise of Sony Pictures (2011) and the attack on the CIA website.
  • Deep Lab: a collaborative group of feminist researchers of digital culture.
  • Peng Collective: a group of activists based in Berlin that launch campaigns using tactical media.

Briefly, Cyber Hacktivism is not considered the weaponization of computers any more. As stated by Harlo Holmes, from Deep Lab,

Hacking was seen as something that “gets done to you”. Now, it’s more clear that hacking is something “you just do”.

The Rise of Hacktivism [Infographic]

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