Hacktivism: When The Mouse > (Pen + Sword)

Long before I began practicing my craft, information technology was positioned to greatly serve our global community. With such a powerful tool free and open to the world, you’d figure that we would have found a way to keep it a safe and sacred place.

WRONG!

Although a good majority of the Internet is honest-to-goodness user-generated content, there is still a portion of it, as well as the possibility of, severe misinformation. While cybersecurity has always been a buried passion of mine, I’ve always felt that the possibility of misinformation on the Internet had been severely underestimated.

Bear electronic arms

What brought this to my attention again in short order was “the digital equivalent of the shot heard ’round the world” — Operation: Payback. In a matter of days some of the world’s largest institutions were brought down to their knees. (It was such a momentous day in history that Time even launched a “Most Memorable Hacking Moments” timeline.) I watched the Twitter timeline explode with activity as @anonops broadcast their plans and commentary in real-time. It was fascinating watching a team from all around the world coordinate their next move. It was also quite a jarring experience.

AnonOps - Anonymous

From one perspective it was watching dis/mis/organized cybercrime take over the digital landscape. From my other perspective I was watching the crowd to see how they were reacting. I was watching the numbers of followers grow and monitoring countries of heaviest activity. I was watching the other social media platforms actively censor and pull down information as it was being leaked. I was watching brands that I’ve admired and followed since I’ve been introduced to the Internet get yanked offline in a matter of seconds.

What is fascinating is that today’s hacker is not the one of yesteryear. They move quickly, they are organized, and they seem to have the basics of PR and marketing down to rally support from troops all around the world. Here is a recent video from Operation: Tunisia in late 2010. In our day and age, a new era of hacking has surfaced: hacktivism. Not hacking for fun or for the thrill of it, but hacking for change and to make a difference…in this case, to pave the way for the democratization of information technology. It might be time to reset the phrase to, “the mouse is mightier than the pen and the sword…combined.