Hacktivism is a form of digital protest which utilizes cyber attack techniques to advance political agendas.

Hacktivism differs from traditional activism by taking place online and being harder to track, taking advantage of both scalability and anonymity to achieve its effectiveness. Furthermore, it requires individuals having access to computers as well as communication channels between themselves to engage effectively in this form of activism.


Hacktivism is an evolving form of activism which combines computer hacking skills with political motivations, taking advantage of the internet’s scalability, anonymity and inaccessibility to traditional forms of censorship. Hacktivism may serve to support or supplement traditional activism but also stands alone as an effective form of protest; recent examples include Occupy Wall Street or Church of Scientology protests as examples.

Though many hackers use virtual vulnerabilities for financial gain, others engage in disruptive or damaging virtual activity for political, social or religious causes. These individuals are known as hacktivists; their motives can range from uncovering fraud to protesting censorship. Political-inspired hacking may target corporate greed or unethical business practices while social-driven hacking focuses on human rights abuses or social injustices. Religiously inspired hacking often seeks to promote one religion over others while anarchist-inspired attacks aim at changing political culture altogether.

Hacktivism campaigns involve hackers scouring an organization’s network for information that they can use for their cause, whether that means stealing emails, releasing confidential documents or defacing websites. Once exposed, this data becomes public through various media outlets and outlets such as social media channels. One law firm was targeted as part of this activism because they represented an individual involved with an ongoing legal controversy; as part of their campaign the hackers released confidential client information online which breached attorney-client privilege and compromised the lawyer-client privilege agreement between attorney and client and firm represented their client before legally sanctioned this kind of activism by lawyers for this representation which included breach of attorney-client privilege agreements by hacktivist groups who released confidential client details that breached attorney-client privilege agreements between lawyers and clients in violation of attorney-client privilege.

Some hacktivist groups focus on spreading an ideology or message, such as Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) and its spinoffs Ninja Strike Force and Hacktivismo. cDc took an aggressive stand against denial-of-service attacks and other cyber disruptions as violations to online freedom of speech; other hacktivist groups may support their government, such as Syrian Electronic Army supporting Bashar Al Assad or Honker Union of China.


Hacktivism can be traced back to the dawn of computers and the internet. Over time, its evolution has paralleled technological and societal change, and is frequently an expression of political, social or religious dissatisfaction. Hacktivism may take many forms: website defacements and denial of service attacks up to more sophisticated attacks such as doxing (publishing personal details about high profile individuals) or credit card number theft. Hacktivists may operate within larger organizations such as Anonymous or LulzSec or independently as solo operatorss or small groups of their peers.

Hacktivism often takes the form of supporting specific political or social causes, such as freedom of speech, human rights, religious belief or environmental concerns. Hacktivists may support protesters at G8 summit meetings, target logging companies’ websites or infrastructure or attack those supporting specific governments’ activities – these issues could range anywhere from supporting one protester at the G8 summit meeting to attacking websites supporting those actions by that particular government.

Hacktivists typically target businesses or websites engaging in illegal or socially unacceptable activity, such as child pornography sites. Anonymous has launched many operations against sites involved with child pornography as well as the Church of Scientology to retaliate against their efforts to close down Gawker Media. Their most notorious operation was Operation Payback where hackers breached into several major corporations and police servers to disable security systems and out their leaders publicly.

Hacktivists’ moral approach is heavily determined by their personal beliefs and values, which may vary considerably from person to person. Most respondents in a survey expressed support for their respective country’s government while some others were more critical. Most highlighted the significance of their cause with actions they could take and believed their actions could change something tangible; some respondents shared that their morality changed depending on needs, life experiences and historical moments.


Hacktivists use various tactics to accomplish their goals. A popular strategy is a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). A DDoS involves flooding a targeted website with traffic, exhausting server resources and making the website inaccessible to visitors. A similar tactic is website defacement: this involves altering its code or software so as to display messages that express hacktivist sentiments.

Leak information to the public regarding a target company by disclosing confidential details or publishing documents detailing policies and practices at play within that target organization. This tactic can serve as a form of protest to bring attention to specific issues.

Some hacktivist groups focus on specific political events or activities; others support more global causes; for example, the cDc Communications group founded in 1984 began as media saturation efforts with a commitment to free speech but has evolved into a hacker collective that promotes human rights causes among other initiatives.

Hacktivism has come alive through organizations like the Cyber Libertarian Party, founded in 2015 and committed to supporting “cyber libertarian and anarchic values, contributing to more informed, democratic decision making processes while creating societies based on ethical democratic principles.”

According to a recent study, hacktivists’ primary motivator for taking action is when their moral beliefs are violated; 28 out of 29 participants who participated identified this factor as being their main reason for engaging in hacktivist activities. Another key driver was perceived efficacy – these respondents believed their efforts could make an impactful statement about third party behavior.

Hacktivists use social media and blogs to spread their message, often publishing anonymous material. Hacktivists may also create websites which replicate the content of legitimate businesses to bypass any censorship; for instance, replicating their URL and attaching the content can make headlines or alter customer loyalty; businesses can protect themselves by having effective cybersecurity infrastructure in place.


Hacktivist groups are driven by the desire to see change come about in cyberspace. Their motivation may come from traditional social movements or emerging elements of digital culture, such as Wikileaks or Anonymous collective.

Mandiant has documented numerous hacktivist claims related to geopolitical events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or Israel’s regional policies; often hackers depict their actions as aiding militias fighting on behalf of Ukraine or Palestine.

Hacktivists also often utilize hacktivism as a means to publicize political causes; when doing so, they often showcased their efforts through social media posts showing results of their efforts – for instance a video by Iraqi group Altahrea Team claimed they hacked into a power plant in Israel while GhostSec demonstrated how its actions caused physical damage via internet-accessible electricity assets in Russia.

Hacktivists’ most frequently employed tactics include doxing (publishing personal details of targets online) and informational leaks, in which insider sources reveal potentially incriminating information without risking their employment. Other techniques involve changing website code to create defacements or alter their appearance; website mirroring mirrors an original website but uses a slightly different URL in order to bypass censorship laws.

Hacktivist attacks can have disastrous repercussions for any company’s bottom line, in terms of lost productivity and revenue that erode customer loyalty, prompting enterprises to equip themselves with robust cyber defenses in case an attack succeeds. A successful attack also makes headlines, which may damage brand image and customer trustworthiness.

Hacktivism has emerged as a prominent part of cyber landscape, yet its motivations remain obscure. This research seeks to fill that void using a socio-psychological approach based on Social Identity Model of Collective Action (SIMCA) as an analytical framework in order to gain an insight into what drives individuals to participate in hacktivism protest. Results indicate that SIMCA theory can be applied to this new form of activism as hacktivism acts are comprised of both hacker culture and traditional protest activities.

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