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Tuesday, September 02 2014 @ 06:32 AM CDT

What is Hacktivism? A short history of Anonymous, Lulzsec and the Arab Spring

Lib Tech

Over the past two years around 90 people - some as young as 16 years old - have been arrested in the US, UK, and mainland Europe for online criminal activities relating to the hacktivist group Anonymous. The charges they face range from disabling commercial websites, stealing sensitive information such as credit card details, to attacking government security sites. In March 2012 one of the leaders of the spin-off group called Lulzsec was arrested and has subsequently become an informant for the FBI in exchange for leniency, which has led to more arrests.

What is Hacktivism? A short history of Anonymous, Lulzsec and the Arab Spring

By Martyn Casserly
PC Advisor

Over the past two years around 90 people - some as young as 16 years old - have been arrested in the US, UK, and mainland Europe for online criminal activities relating to the hacktivist group Anonymous. The charges they face range from disabling commercial websites, stealing sensitive information such as credit card details, to attacking government security sites. In March 2012 one of the leaders of the spin-off group called Lulzsec was arrested and has subsequently become an informant for the FBI in exchange for leniency, which has led to more arrests. It marks a significant moment in the fight against these new breed of activists, but the story behind them isn't a simple case of young, technologically skilled kids with malicious intent. Some of them have a cause.

Ever since the dawn of computers there have been hackers. In fact many of the advances in technology and the internet have come from people who wanted to take something apart to understand how it worked, or use technology in ways that its creators never intended. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook all were birthed in environments such as these, with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak famous for selling little blue boxes that hacked the US telephone system and allowed their customers to make long distance calls for free.

There are also those who use these skills to make people's life a misery, steal information, or generally wreak havoc. These are the reason we have firewalls, virus scanners and emails from Nigerian princes who want to give you a million pounds if you'll just hand over your bank details. Somewhere between these extremes is another class of hacker, whose motives are considered noble by some and criminal by others. They are the Hacktivists, a modern equivalent of the political protesters, who instead of picketing embassies or wielding banners outside corporate headquarters conduct their campaigns over the internet with arguably more profound results.

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