On June 20, hacker groups LulzSec and Anonymous announced “Operation Anti-Security.”
Their “top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation. Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments.” On June 21, a Chinese government website was taken down. On June 23, Arizona law enforcement fell prey to the digital pranksters' lovingly titled side-operation “Chinga La Migra.” The first phase of the hacking rampage continued to affect institutions far and wide until, on June 26, LuzSec was disbanded. Anonymous now claims that it is unilaterally leading the operation.
Operation Anti-Security, once again, raises questions about the concept of “hacktivism.” The most important concern is whether or not politically motivated hacking should be considered a legitimate and respectable form of political expression.
I am a fan of innovative new methods of protest, so to stem a potential wave of haterade from flowing towards political hackers, here are my three golden reasons for being pro-hacktivism:
1) It does not matter that hacktivism may be illegal – Legality, alone, has no bearing on the legitimacy of political expression. If a protest is deemed illegal, it just transitions from the umbrella of “legal protest” to that of “civil disobedience.” While I am not suggesting that Operation Anti-Security is some sort of modern-day Salt March, one can reasonably view a Denial-of-Service attack as the digital age's analog to a sit-in.
2) Social and political issues can be time-sensitive – Many social and political issues are time-sensitive. In the internet age, news is made fast and the window of time to contribute important commentary is often limited. Since building traffic for a website takes a lot of time and money, developing a brand new protest webpage makes little logistical sense. Capitalizing on a preexisting site’s traffic is an easier, more effective way to disseminate a message. No, I do not think it is ethically wrong to take advantage of another website’s traffic if a political cause is just; some of you are probably already rushing to the comment section to counter me on this point. I hope that by tossing you a link, indicating how funny the people who share my outlook can be, I will defuse your eagerness to start a long and dull debate. If not, bring on those comments.
3) Better a hacktivist than a robber – An ideologically motivated hacker is better than a run-of-the-mill, crook hacker. The ideological hacker is less likely to steal money or commit financial fraud. Thus far, there have been no reports of LulzSec or Anonymous members committing any crime resembling a robbery. Furthermore, hacking can expose digital security flaws overlooked by firms and institutions. No doubt, attention-grabbing hacktivist shenanigans have helped corporate and government officials identify more than a few security issues over the years.
In addition to creatively keeping us all politically and socially conscious, in a way, hacktivists also help keep the internet safer. Now, those are some upstanding members of society.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons