The Rise Of The Hacktivists

There is a new techy word – Hacktivists. Hackers + Activists = Hacktivists.

So, what are hacktivists and what do hacktivists actually do? Like activists, hactivists believe in taking immediate action against organisations that they disagree with. Rather than write letters to the Times, speak to the MP and moan about things in the pub, they use technology to strike at the heart of an organisations Internet presence.


Hacktivists really hit the media over the Wikileaks events. First, people attacked Wikileaks for publishing previously secret governement documents. So some people were hired to take the site out by using a DDOS (distributed denial of service attack).

Then, some of the financial supporters of Wikileaks, such as Mastercard and VISA, which took a stance against Wikileaks have been attacked also.

How Are The Hacktivists Working?

The BBC managed to talk to one of the leaders, Coldblood, who is with a group known as Anonymous. He explained that a “botnet tool” (a piece of software designed to sit on a computer and then attack websites) is being used. This tool can be voluntarily downloaded by anyone that wants to become a hacktivist. This is almost definitely against most ISP terms and conditions, so be careful before donning your camo gear and downloading your botnet software.

Operation Payback

The hacktivists have called this project Operation Payback. It aims simply to attack anyone that has stood against Wikileaks. The legal team that are prosecuting Julian Assange have also been attacked, virtually. PostFinance (Assange’s Swiss bank), Paypal, Mastercard and VISA came under attack after the stopped providing their services to allow people to donate money to Wikileaks.

The botnets simply attack a site by sending multiple requests, sometimes to order forms or other areas that they know will use up most server resources to process. This is known as a Distributed Denial of Service Attack.

“Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets.” Coldblood.

What makes these attacks so hard to stop is that they come from all over the World. In a traditional Denial of Service attack,. it would usually be just one computer attacking a website, or at most a small network operating in one area. These can be blocked by preventing an IP range from being able to access the servers. However, with a DDOS blocking IP ranges is not possible at it would mean blocking out most customers.

It is thought that the DDOS attacks will cease soon as the Hacktivists will start to develop some new ways to support Wikileaks. Coldblood told the BBC that they are planning to set up multiple Mirror sites for Wikileaks, which simply means that the information will be available in many locations. Should one site fail, another will be ready to replace it.

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