Hacktivism is not a new concept; it has been around for a long time. In a 2001 Foxnews article, “It’s an All-Out Cyber War as U.S. Hackers Fight Back at China“, organized Chinese hacker’s defaced US websites to protest a collision between a U.S. Navy surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter. US hackers responded in kind by defacing Chinese websites.
This is the normal pattern for Hacktivism. A political event occurs, and then computer savvy individuals make their point of view known by defacing opposition websites. Sometimes they send out mass e-mails or even perform denial of service attacks against the target site. Irritating, yes, cyber war, no. But what we are seeing recently is something much more aggressive. Political Cyber War is taking these attacks to a new level. Hacktivists are no longer just trying to deface websites. Take the recent Google hacking for instance. Google decided to not filter search results for China anymore and hackers responded by penetrating Google’s systems. Intellectual property of Google was stolen and Gmail accounts were hacked.
But it did not stop there. 33 other companies were attacked at the same time. This included Adobe systems and Northrop Grumman. Northrop Grumman is a US defense contractor and is the world’s largest naval ship builder. They are also the company that makes the B-2 stealth bomber. As you can see, this has gone past just defacing websites, and making political statements.
When military contractor sites are attacked, the goal is not to make a political statement, but to infiltrate and steal pertinent military information. It is an act of intelligence gathering and the information gained could aid in a real or cyber war. This is not hacktivism, but Political Cyber War.