In-depth

Will President Trump inspire a hacktivism revival?

Why political upheaval could inspire hacktivists to take to their keyboards again

Whichever side of the political divide you stand on, Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America, is a controversial character.

Protesters have gathered in Washington DC to manifest their feelings against his presidency, with solidarity marches planned across the globe.

People haven't only threatened to make their displeasure about the Trump presidency known in person, however. Earlier this week, a man named Juan Soberanis set up a website calling on Americans to launch a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack against the White House website during Trump's inauguration today.

Trump, of course, isn't the only politically controversial event happening currently, with Brexit in the UK and the rise of the far right in Europe causing consternation in some quarters as well.

In this heated atmosphere, will cyber attacks once again become regular tools of political protest, and not only a mainstay of cyber criminals and trouble makers?

Hacktivism - a brief history

Hacktivism, where groups launch various types of cyber attacks against targets for political reasons, has been around since the early days of the internet, with the term itself being coined by a member of one of the earliest groups, the Cult of the Dead Cow.

In the early 2010s hacktivism was a favoured tool of groups such as Anonymous, LulzSec and Team Poison. Anonymous, in particular, brought this form of protest into the public eye around about the turn of the decade with "operations" like Project Chanology, Operation Payback and the group's integration with the Occupy movement.

While arrests have certainly dampened the activity of these groups, and better cybersecurity has potentially made their attempts less successful, it's notable that the past several years has also been a time of relative political calm, at least in terms of Western domestic politics.

The resurrection of the hacktivist?

With a return to a more fractious political atmosphere, are we likely to see more online activism again?

The security community is undecided, but feels it's something that is very possible. "We'll just have to wait and see," security researcher Graham Cluley tells IT Pro.

"One thing is clear - America is more obviously divided than it has been in the past, and unrest and dissent these days often spills out onto the internet."

Tammy Moskites, CIO and CISO at cybersecurity company Venafi, says hacktivism is a powerful way of highlighting issues and causing lots of damage in the process.

"Hacktivism has really switched into something that can turn into damaging, impacting and notable events that can really bring something to people's attention," Moskites says. "[Hacktivists] really can cause massive disturbances and disrupt what we do on a day-in and day-out basis and I think that hacktivism is, especially in light of changing political views, something that we might see a rise of again."

Both in light of this potential threat and the ever-present threat of nation-state cyber attacks, governments must be vigilant to protect themselves and their countries.

"Any time a fractious political environment exists, there is the potential for stalemating on legislation and making progress on key initiatives, such as defending our country's critical infrastructure from cyber attacks," Eric O'Neill, Carbon Black's national security strategist, tells IT Pro.

"Cybersecurity should not be a partisan issue," O'Neill continues. "As Donald Trump's administration begins to take shape, there must be clear recognition that hacking is the new espionage and that malicious, nation-state actors will do everything in their power to gain a leg up on the United States. It is critical for the Trump administration to take a serious look at cybersecurity and not simply pay it lip service."

Featured Resources

Choosing a collaboration platform

Eight questions every IT leader should ask

Download now

Performance benchmark: PostgreSQL/ MongoDB

Helping developers choose a database

Download now

Customer service vs. customer experience

Three-step guide to modern customer experience

Download now

Taking a proactive approach to cyber security

A complete guide to penetration testing

Download now

Recommended

eBay, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google were phishers’ top targets in 2020
phishing

eBay, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google were phishers’ top targets in 2020

20 Apr 2021
Mastering endpoint security implementation
Security

Mastering endpoint security implementation

16 Apr 2021
US, UK say Russia was behind SolarWinds hack
cyber attacks

US, UK say Russia was behind SolarWinds hack

16 Apr 2021
1Password targets enterprise customers with Secrets Automation
IT infrastructure

1Password targets enterprise customers with Secrets Automation

14 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages
data centres

Microsoft is submerging servers in boiling liquid to prevent Teams outages

7 Apr 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

8 Apr 2021
UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency
digital currency

UK exploring plans to launch its own digital currency

19 Apr 2021