Normally words like “Cyber Terrorism” or “Cyber Attacks” are associated with highly organized groups or even foreign governments working to sabotage or hack into important corporate or government databases. While this has been the traditional stereotype of internet hackers, a new type of cyber “criminal” has emerged. Hactivists are individuals or groups that use cyber hacking as a mode of social activism. Perhaps the most famous “hactivist” organization is Anonymous, a loosely associated group of people who work together to oppose internet censorship and freedom of information.
Because of the anonymous nature of the group, there is no real membership. The group is loosely associated with online forums, such as 4chan, where it originated in 2004. Anonymous has no centralized online entity, and is generally associated with many similar online forums that maintain user anonymity. The group works toward common goals and in the past had led an attack campaign against anti-piracy movements that attempt to block illegal online downloading of movies and music. Anonymous also opposes homophobic organization such as the church of Scientology and West Borough Baptist Church, and has lobbied for the US government to classify these organizations as hate groups. They have launched cyber attacks on both the Israeli and Syrian governments in response to crackdowns on their citizens- and have been loosely associated with various Occupy movements.
While some people accuse Anonymous of cyber terrorism, others have commended the group as the future of social activism. I think that Anonymous, and similar groups present a grey area. While they are in many cases, actively working toward normative goals, they are breaking the law in doing so- and in some cases compromising national security. I think this type of social activism is a classic dilemma of “does the end justify the means”, which is of course open to interpretation.