Are 'hacktivists' criminals or are they the current generation's peaceful protestors? Hacktivists can loosely be defined as individuals and collaboratives who use the tools of hackers, including data breaches and denial of service attacks, to make what they believe are statements. These 'statements,' whether written in ink or irony, have included everything from vocal support for Julian Assange to electronic evidence that even the CIA isn't immune from cyber mischief. So, once again, the question...are those who make such statements criminals or merely the political operatives and opinion-shapers of an increasingly wired Earth?
In a post-9/11 world of shifting legal standards, in a world where the internet is increasingly being used as a political tool, where virtual news sites such as Wikileaks can place actual lives on the line, where governments are increasingly regulating the web, where more and more of the very confidential information we all use to run our lives is found in cyberspace, the answers to such questions are not always clear. It is not even always clear who the 'good' guys and the 'bad guys' are.
Complicating the analysis further, it is not always clear who is in charge of information, what legal regimes govern web conflicts or who has jurisdiction over individuals in a sovereign nations who commit their purported crimes thousands of miles away. Muddying the waters even further, as hacktivists who consider themselves to be akin to peaceful sit-in protestors have transitioned from making political statements to reaching increasingly more nefarious ends, the answers to questions about their legitimacy have become not only gray, but fuzzy, confusticated and hidden to boot.
Little is known about the members of the hacktivist groups, either by the media, or even sometimes even their co-hackers as individuals strive to shroud themselves in mystery. However, as more actions by such groups begin to occur in the open and as more people become involved, some outlines are being developed. For more on the best-known of the hacktivist groups, appropriately named 'Anonymous,' view the Wall St. Journal clip below.