In Internet activism, hacktivism or hactivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism) is the use of technology to promote a political agenda or a social change.[1] With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights, or freedom of information movements.[2]

The term was coined in 1994 by a Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc) member known as "Omega" in an e-mail to the group.[3][4] Due to the variety of meanings of its root words, hacktivism is sometimes ambiguous and there exists significant disagreement over the kinds of activities and purposes it encompasses. Some definitions include acts of cyberterrorism while others simply reaffirm the use of technological hacking to effect social change.[5][6]


Hacktivist activities span many political ideals and issues. Freenet, a peer-to-peer platform for censorship-resistant communication, is a prime example of translating political thought (anybody should be able to speak freely) into code. Hacking as a form of activism can be carried out through a network of activists, such as Anonymous and WikiLeaks, or through a singular activist, working in collaboration toward a common goals without an overarching authority figure.[7]

"Hacktivism" is a controversial term with several meanings. The word was coined to characterize electronic direct action as working toward social change by combining programming skills with critical thinking. But just as hack can sometimes mean cyber crime, hacktivism can be used to mean activism that is malicious, destructive, and undermining the security of the Internet as a technical, economic, and political platform.[8]


Depending on who is using the term, hacktivism can be a politically motivated technology hack, a constructive form of anarchic civil disobedience, or an undefined anti-systemic gesture.[9] It can signal anticapitalist or political protest; it can denote anti-spam activists, security experts, or open source advocates.[10]

Some people describing themselves as hacktivists have taken to defacing websites for political reasons, such as attacking and defacing government websites as well as web sites of groups who oppose their ideology.[11] Others, such as Oxblood Ruffin (the "foreign affairs minister" of Cult of the Dead Cow and Hacktivismo), have argued forcefully against definitions of hacktivism that include web defacements or denial-of-service attacks.[12]

Hactivism is often seen as shadowy due to its anonymity, commonly attributed to the work of fringe groups and outlying members of society.[13] The lack of responsible parties to be held accountable for the social-media attacks performed by hactivists has created implications in corporate and federal security measures both on and offline.[14]

While some self-described hacktivists have engaged in DoS attacks, critics suggest that DoS attacks are an attack on free speech and that they have unintended consequences. DoS attacks waste resources and they can lead to a "DoS war" that nobody will win. In 2006, Blue Security attempted to automate a DoS attack against spammers; this led to a massive DoS attack against Blue Security which knocked them, their old ISP and their DNS provider off the Internet, destroying their business.[15]

Following denial-of-service attacks by Anonymous on multiple sites, in reprisal for the apparent suppression of WikiLeaks, John Perry Barlow, a founding member of the EFF, said "I support freedom of expression, no matter whose, so I oppose DDoS attacks regardless of their target... they're the poison gas of cyberspace...".[16] On the other hand, Jay Leiderman, an attorney for many hacktivists, argues that DDoS can be a legitimate form of protest speech in situations that are reasonably limited in time, place and manner.[17]

Forms and methods

Self-proclaimed "Hactivists" often work anonymously, sometimes operating in groups while other times operating as a lone-wolf with several cyber-personas all corresponding to one activist[13] within the cyberactivism umbrella that has been gaining public interest and power in pop-culture. Hactivists generally operate under apolitical ideals and express uninhibited ideas or abuse without being scrutinized by society while representing or defending them publicly under an anonymous identity giving them a sense of power in the cyberactivism community.

In order to carry out their operations, hacktivists might create new tools; or integrate or use a variety of software tools readily available on the Internet. One class of hacktivist activities includes increasing the accessibility of others to take politically motivated action online.

  1. Code: Software and websites can achieve political purposes. For example, the encryption software PGP can be used to secure communications; PGP's author, Phil Zimmermann said he distributed it first to the peace movement.[18] Jim Warren suggests PGP's wide dissemination was in response to Senate Bill 266, authored by Senators Biden and DeConcini, which demanded that "...communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications...".[19] WikiLeaks is an example of a politically motivated website: it seeks to "keep governments open".[20]
  2. Website Mirroring: is used as a circumvention tool to bypass censorship blocks on websites. It is a technique that copies the content of a censored website and posts it to other domains and subdomains that are not censored.[21]
  3. Geo-bombing: a technique in which netizens add a geo-tag while editing YouTube videos so that the location of the video can be displayed in Google Earth.
  4. Anonymous blogging: a method of speaking out to a wide audience about human rights issues, government oppression, etc. that utilizes various web tools such as free and/or disposable email accounts, IP masking, and blogging software to preserve a high level of anonymity.[22]
  5. RECAP is software that was written to 'liberate US case law' and make it freely available online. The software project takes the form of distributed document collection and archival.[23]
  6. Leaking:Information leakage from an insider source who acts in the interest of the public to reveal sensitive and otherwise protected information about a given organization that implicates them in wrongdoing or malicious practices.
  7. Doxing:[14] The practice in which private and/or confidential documents and records are hacked into and made public. Hactivists view this as a form of assured transparency, experts claim it is harassment.
  8. Denial-of-Service attacks: These attacks, commonly referred to as DoS attacks, use large arrays of personal and public computers that hackers take control of via malware executable files usually transmitted through email attachments or website links. After taking control, these computers act like a herd of zombies, redirecting their network traffic to one website, with the intention of overloading servers and taking a website offline.[14]
  9. Website defacements: Hacker(s) infiltrate a web server to replace a specific web page with one of their own, usually to convey a specific message.[24]
  10. Website redirects: Similar to website mirroring, this method involves changing the address of a website within the server so would-be visitors of the site are redirected to a site created by the perpetrator, typically to denounce the original site.[24]
  11. Virtual sit-ins: Large numbers of protesters visit a targeted website and rapidly load pages to overwhelm the site with network traffic to slow the site or take it offline.[24]

Notable hacktivist events

The earliest known instance of hacktivism as documented by Julian Assange is as follows:[25] "Hacktivism is at least as old as October 1989 when DOE, HEPNET and SPAN (NASA) connected VMS machines world wide were penetrated by the anti-nuclear WANK worm."

  • In 1990, the Hong Kong Blondes helped Chinese citizens get access to blocked websites by targeting the Chinese computer networks.[26] The group identified holes in the Chinese internet system, particularly in the area of satellite communications. The leader of the group, Blondie Wong, also described plans to attack American businesses that were partnering with China.[27]
  • In 1996, the title of the United States Department of Justice's homepage was changed to "Department of Injustice". Pornographic images were also added to the homepage to protest the Communications Decency Act.[28]
  • In December 1998, a hacktivist group from the US called Legions of the Underground emerged. They declared a cyberwar against Iraq and China and planned on disabling internet access in retaliation for the countries' human rights abuses.[29] Opposing hackers criticized this move by Legions of the Underground, saying that by shutting down internet systems, the hacktivist group would have no impact on providing free access to information.[30]
  • In July 2001, Hacktivismo, a sect of the Cult of the Dead Cow, issued the "Hacktivismo Declaration". This served as a code of conduct for those participating in hacktivism, and declared the hacker community's goals of stopping "state-sponsored censorship of the Internet" as well as affirming the rights of those therein to "freedom of opinion and expression".[31]
  • During the 2009 Iranian election protests, Anonymous played a role in disseminating information to and from Iran by setting up the website Anonymous Iran;[32] they also released a video manifesto to the Iranian government.
  • Google worked with engineers from SayNow and Twitter to provide communications for the Egyptian people in response to the government sanctioned Internet blackout during the 2011 protests. The result, Speak To Tweet, was a service in which voicemail left by phone was then tweeted via Twitter with a link to the voice message on Google's SayNow.[33]
  • On Saturday 29 May 2010 a hacker calling himself ‘Kaka Argentine’ hacked into the Ugandan State House website and posted a conspicuous picture of Adolf Hitler with the swastika, a Nazi Party symbol.[11]
  • During the Egyptian Internet black out, January 28 – February 2, 2011, Telecomix provided dial up services, and technical support for the Egyptian people.[34] Telecomix released a video stating their support of the Egyptian people, describing their efforts to provide dial-up connections, and offering methods to avoid internet filters and government surveillance.[35] The hacktivist group also announced that they were closely tracking radio frequencies in the event that someone was sending out important messages.[36]
  • Project Chanology, also known as "Operation Chanology", was a hacktivist protest against the Church of Scientology to punish the church for participating in Internet censorship relating to the removal of material from a 2008 interview with Church of Scientology member Tom Cruise. Hacker group Anonymous attempted to "expel the church from the Internet" via DDoS attacks. In February 2008 the movement shifted toward legal methods of nonviolent protesting. Several protests were held as part of Project Chanology, beginning in 2008 and ending in 2009.
  • On June 3, 2011, LulzSec took down a website of the FBI. This was the first time they had targeted a website that was not part of the private sector. That week, the FBI was able to track the leader of LulzSec, Hector Xavier Monsegur.[37]
  • On June 20, 2011 LulzSec targeted the Serious Organised Crime Agency of the United Kingdom, causing UK authorities to take down the website.[38]
  • In August 2011 a member of Anonymous working under the name "Oliver Tucket" took control of the Syrian Defense Ministry website and added an Israeli government web portal in addition to changing the mail server for the website to one belonging to the Chinese navy.[39]
  • Anonymous and New World Hackers claimed responsibility for the 2016 Dyn cyberattack in retaliation for Ecuador's rescinding Internet access to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at their embassy in London.[40] WikiLeaks alluded to the attack.[41] Subsequently, FlashPoint stated that the attack was most likely done by script kiddies.[42]
  • In 2013, as an online component to the Million Mask March, Anonymous in the Philippines crashed 30 government websites and posted a YouTube video to congregate people in front of the parliament house on November 5 to demonstrate their disdain toward the Filipino government.[43]
  • In 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment was hacked by a group by the name of Guardians Of Peace (GOP) who obtained over 100 Terabytes of data including unreleased films, employee salary, social security data, passwords, and account information. GOP hacked various social media accounts and hijacked them by changing their passwords to diespe123 (die sony pictures entertainment) and posting threats on the pages.[44]
  • British hacker Kane Gamble, who was sentenced to 2 years in youth detention, posed as John Brennan, the then director of the CIA, and Mark F. Giuliano, a former deputy director of the FBI, to access highly sensitive information.[45] The judge said Gamble engaged in "politically motivated cyber-terrorism."[46]

Notable hacktivist groups


Perhaps the most prolific and well known hacktivist group, Anonymous has been prominent and prevalent in many major online hacks over the past decade. Anonymous originated on the forums of 4chan during 2003, but didn't rise to prominence until 2008 when they directly attacked the Church of Scientology in a massive DoS attack.[47] Since then, Anonymous has participated in a great number of online projects such as Operation: Payback and Operation: Safe Winter.[48][49] However, while a great number of their projects have been for a charitable cause,[48] they have still gained notoriety from the media due to the nature of their work mostly consisting of illegal hacking.[50]

Following the Paris terror attacks in 2015, Anonymous posted a video declaring war on ISIS,[51] the terror group that claimed responsibility for the attacks. Since declaring war on ISIS, Anonymous since identified several Twitter accounts associated with the movement in order to stop the distribution of ISIS propaganda. However, Anonymous fell under heavy criticism when Twitter issued a statement calling the lists Anonymous had compiled "wildly inaccurate," as it contained accounts of journalists and academics rather than members of ISIS.[52]

Anonymous has also been involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. Early in July 2015, there was a rumor circulating that Anonymous was calling for a Day of Rage protests in retaliation for the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, which would entail violent protests and riots. This rumor was based off a video that was not posted with the official Anonymous YouTube account. None of the Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous had tweeted anything in relation to a Day of Rage, and the rumors were identical to past rumors that had circulated in 2014 following the death of Mike Brown.[53] Instead, on July 15, a Twitter account associated with Anonymous posted a series of tweets calling for a day of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The Twitter account used the hashtag "#FridayofSolidarity" to coordinate protests across the nation, and emphasized the fact that the Friday of Solidarity was intended for peaceful protests. The account also stated that the group was unaware of any Day of Rage plans.[54]

In February 2017 the group took down more than 10,000 sites on the Dark web related to child porn.[2]


The video released by WikiLeaks, showing the slaying of Reuters employee Namir Noor-Eldeen and a dozen other civilians by a U.S. helicopter.

WikiLeaks was founded in 2006 by Julian Assange as a "multi-national media organization and associated library."[55] WikiLeaks operated under the principle of "principled leaking," in order to fight societal corruption.[56] The not-for-profit functions as a whistleblowing organization that serves as an archive of classified documents. Originally, WikiLeaks was operated with the principles of a wiki site, meaning that users could post documents, edit others' documents, and help decide which materials were posted.

The first notable release of documents by WikiLeaks was the release of Afghanistan War logs.[57] In July 2010, WikiLeaks published over 90,000 documents regarding the war in Afghanistan. Prior to the leak, WikiLeaks gave access to the documents to three newspapers. Though WikiLeaks did not identify a source for the documents, it was speculated that the leak came from Chelsea Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst arrested in May 2010 and accused of leaking classified information.[58] The war logs revealed 144 incidents of formerly unreported civilian casualties by the U.S. military. The leak of the Afghanistan war logs was the greatest military leak in United States history.[59]

WikiLeaks is also notable for its leak of over 20,000 confidential emails and 8,000 file attachments from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), on July 22, 2016. The emails are specifically from the inboxes of seven prominent staffers of the DNC, and they were leaked as a searchable database.[60] The emails leaked showed instances of key DNC staffers working to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign prior to primary elections, which was directly against the DNC's stated neutrality in primary elections. Examples of targeting Senator Bernie Sanders included targeting his religion, hoping for his dropping out of the race, constructing negative narratives about his campaign and more. Other emails revealed criticism of President Barack Obama for not helping more in fundraising.[61] Following the leak, DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she would be stepping down from her position in the DNC.[62] On July 25, 2016, the Democratic National Convention opened without Wasserman Schultz. The DNC issued an apology to Sanders the same day the Democratic National Convention opened.[63]


In May 2011, five members of Anonymous formed the hacktivist group Lulz Security, otherwise known as LulzSec. LulzSec's name originated from the conjunction of the internet slang term "lulz", meaning laughs, and "sec", meaning security.[37] The group members used specific handles to identify themselves on Internet Relay Channels, the most notable being: "Sabu," "Kayla," "T-Flow," "Topiary," "AVUnit," and "Pwnsauce." Though the members of LulzSec would spend up to 20 hours a day in communication, they did not know one another personally, nor did they share personal information. For example, once the members' identities were revealed, "T-Flow" was revealed to be 15 years old. Other members, on the basis of his advanced coding ability, thought he was around 30 years old.[64]

One of the first notable targets that LulzSec pursued was HBGary, which was performed in response to a claim made by the technology security company that it had identified members of Anonymous. Following this, the members of LulzSec targeted an array of companies and entities, including but not limited to: Fox Television, Tribune Company, PBS, Sony, Nintendo, and the Senate.gov website. The targeting of these entities typically involved gaining access to and downloading confidential user information, or defacing the website at hand.[65] Though the attacks carried out by LulzSec were not as strongly political as those typical of WikiLeaks or Anonymous, they shared similar sentiments for the freedom of information. One of their distinctly politically-driven attacks involved targeting the Arizona State Police in response to new immigration laws.[66]

The group's first attack that garnered significant government attention was in 2011, when they collectively took down a website of the FBI. Following the incident, the leader of LulzSec, "Sabu," was identified as Hector Xavier Monsegur by the FBI, and he was the first of the group to be arrested. Immediately following his arrest, Monsegur admitted to criminal activity. He then began his cooperation with the US government, helping FBI authorities to arrest 8 of his co-conspirators, prevent 300 potential cyber attacks, and helped to identify vulnerabilities in existing computer systems. In August 2011, Monsegur pleaded guilty to "computer hacking conspiracy, computer hacking, computer hacking in furtherance of fraud, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft pursuant to a cooperation agreement with the government." He served a total of one year and seven months and was charged a $1,200 fine.[67]

Related practices

Culture jamming

Culture jamming is the practice of subverting and criticizing political messages as well as media culture with the aim of challenging the status quo. It is often targeted toward subliminal thought processes taking place in the viewers with the goal of raising awareness as well as causing a paradigm shift. Culture jamming takes many forms including billboard hacking, broadcast signal intrusion, ad-hoc art performances, memes, and artivism.

The term "culture jamming" was first coined in 1984 by American musician Donald Joyce of the band Negativland. However, some speculation remains as to when the practice of culture jamming first began. Social researcher Vince Carducci believes culture jamming can be traced back to the 1950s with European social activist group Situationist International. Author and cultural critic Mark Dery believes medieval carnival is the earliest form of culture jamming as a way to subvert the social hierarchy at the time.

Culture jamming is sometimes confused with acts of vandalism. However, unlike culture jamming, the main goal of vandalism is to cause destruction with any political themes being of lesser importance. Artivism usually has the most questionable nature as a form of culture jamming because defacement of property is usually involved.

Media hacking

Media hacking refers to the usage of various electronic media in an innovative or otherwise abnormal fashion for the purpose of conveying a message to as large a number of people as possible, primarily achieved via the World Wide Web.[68][69] A popular and effective means of media hacking is posting on a blog, as one is usually controlled by one or more independent individuals, uninfluenced by outside parties. The concept of social bookmarking, as well as Web-based Internet forums, may cause such a message to be seen by users of other sites as well, increasing its total reach.

Media hacking is commonly employed for political purposes, by both political parties and political dissidents. A good example of this is the 2008 US Election, in which both the Democratic and Republican parties used a wide variety of different media in order to convey relevant messages to an increasingly Internet-oriented audience.[70] At the same time, political dissidents used blogs and other social media like Twitter in order to reply on an individual basis to the presidential candidates. In particular, sites like Twitter are proving important means in gauging popular support for the candidates, though the site is often used for dissident purposes rather than a show of positive support.[71]

Mobile technology has also become subject to media hacking for political purposes. SMS has been widely used by political dissidents as a means of quickly and effectively organising smart mobs for political action. This has been most effective in the Philippines, where SMS media hacking has twice had a significant impact on whether or not the country's Presidents are elected or removed from office.[72]

Reality hacking

Reality hacking is any phenomenon that emerges from the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of politically, socially, or culturally subversive ends. These tools include website defacements, URL redirections, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web-site parodies, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage.

Art movements such as Fluxus and Happenings in the 1970s created a climate of receptibility in regard to loose-knit organizations and group activities where spontaneity, a return to primitivist behavior, and an ethics where activities and socially engaged art practices became tantamount to aesthetic concerns.

The conflation of these two histories in the mid-to-late 1990s resulted in cross-overs between virtual sit-ins, electronic civil disobedience, denial-of-service attacks, as well as mass protests in relation to groups like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The rise of collectives, net.art groups, and those concerned with the fluid interchange of technology and real life (often from an environmental concern) gave birth to the practice of "reality hacking".

Reality hacking relies on tweaking the everyday communications most easily available to individuals with the purpose of awakening the political and community conscience of the larger population. The term first came into use among New York and San Francisco artists, but has since been adopted by a school of political activists centered around culture jamming.

UnChange Hacktivism

UnChange Hacktivism, also referred to as Inverted Hacktivism is the process wherein the proliferation of hacking scripts allows easily influenced and culturally indoctrinated participants to serve the cause of groups traditionally viewed by hacktivists as the sources of inequality.[4] Akin to Black Propoganda, this form of Hacktivism relies on Social Identity Theory Psychology to fool hacktivism participants into working for the objectives of institutions associated with the top 2% wealth holders globally. Because low-level copy and paste hacktivists are regularly outmatched, outsmarted and outwitted by enterprise-level IT Security, they are left with little else to do but hack those who might otherwise conduct independently owned businesses, squashing any possible low-level competition to establishment, or, "2%," multinational corporations. UnChange Hacktivists have saluted their achievements by forcing targets to listen to some of the worst mixed beats ever produced, dubbing them over stolen humorous YouTube vine compilations. Although the amount of time UnChange Hacktivists have spent on the worst beats ever produced creates the impression by their composers that they are some form of achievement, they are generally regarded as on par with the beats that could regularly be created by persons with any formal musical training in fewer than 5 minutes, literally. UnChange Hacktivism seeks to place creators of the worst beats ever produced into the status of, "porch n*gg#r," to the 2% wealth holders, and in the process destroys any and all hope for real Social Change.

In fiction

The 1999 science fiction-action film The Matrix, among others, popularized the simulation hypothesis — the suggestion that reality is in fact a simulation of which those affected by the simulants are generally unaware. In this context, "reality hacking" is reading and understanding the code which represents the activity of the simulated reality environment (such as Matrix digital rain) and also modifying it in order to bend the laws of physics or otherwise modify the simulated reality.

Reality hacking as a mystical practice is explored in the Gothic-Punk aesthetics-inspired White Wolf urban fantasy role-playing game Mage: The Ascension. In this game, the Reality Coders (also known as Reality Hackers or Reality Crackers) are a faction within the Virtual Adepts, a secret society of mages whose magick revolves around digital technology. They are dedicated to bringing the benefits of cyberspace to real space. To do this, they had to identify, for lack of a better term, the "source code" that allows our Universe to function. And that is what they have been doing ever since. Coders infiltrated a number of levels of society in order to gather the greatest compilation of knowledge ever seen. One of the Coders' more overt agendas is to acclimate the masses to the world that is to come. They spread Virtual Adept ideas through video games and a whole spate of "reality shows" that mimic virtual reality far more than "real" reality. The Reality Coders consider themselves the future of the Virtual Adepts, creating a world in the image of visionaries like Grant Morrison or Terence McKenna.

In a location-based game (also known as a pervasive game), reality hacking refers to tapping into phenomena that exist in the real world, and tying them into the game story universe.[73]

Academic interpretations

There have been various academic approaches to deal with hacktivism and urban hacking. In 2010, Günther Friesinger, Johannes Grenzfurthner and Thomas Ballhausen published an entire reader dedicated to the subject. They state: "Urban spaces became battlefields, signifiers have been invaded, new structures have been established: Netculture replaced counterculture in most parts and also focused on the everchanging environments of the modern city. Important questions have been brought up to date and reasked, taking current positions and discourses into account. The major question still remains, namely how to create culturally based resistance under the influence of capitalistic pressure and conservative politics."[74]

See also


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Further reading

External links


Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community (including writing letters to newspapers), petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage (or boycott) of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.

Activism may be performed on a day-to-day basis in a wide variety of ways, including through the creation of art (artivism), computer hacking (hacktivism), or simply in how one chooses to spend their money (economic activism). For example, the refusal to buy clothes or other merchandise from a company as a protest against the exploitation of workers by that company could be considered an expression of activism. However, the most highly visible and impactful activism often comes in the form of collective action, in which numerous individuals coordinate an act of protest together in order to make a bigger impact. Collective action that is purposeful, organized, and sustained over a period of time becomes known as a social movement.Historically, activists have used literature, including pamphlets, tracts, and books to disseminate their messages and attempt to persuade their readers of the justice of their cause. Research has now begun to explore how contemporary activist groups use social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action combining politics with technology.The Online Etymology Dictionary records the English words "activism" and "activist" as in use in the political sense from the year 1920 or 1915 respectively.


Anonymous may refer to:

Anonymity, the state of an individual's personal identity, or personally identifiable information, being publicly unknown

Anonymous work, a work of art or literature that has an unnamed or unknown creator or author

Anonymous (group)

Anonymous is a decentralized international hacktivist group that is widely known for its various DDoS cyber attacks against several governments, government institutions and government agencies, corporations, and the Church of Scientology.

Anonymous originated in 2003 on the imageboard 4chan representing the concept of many online and offline community users simultaneously existing as an anarchic, digitized global brain. Anonymous members (known as Anons) can be distinguished in public by the wearing of Guy Fawkes masks in the style portrayed in the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta. However, this may not always be the case as some of the collective prefer to instead cover their face without using the well-known mask as a disguise. Some anons also opt to mask their voices through voice changers or text-to-speech programs.

In its early form, the concept was adopted by a decentralized online community acting anonymously in a coordinated manner, usually toward a loosely self-agreed goal and primarily focused on entertainment (or lulz). Beginning with Project Chanology in 2008—a series of protests, pranks, and hacks targeting the Church of Scientology—the Anonymous collective became increasingly associated with collaborative hacktivism on a number of issues internationally. Individuals claiming to align themselves with Anonymous undertook protests and other actions (including direct action) in retaliation against copyright-focused campaigns by motion picture and recording industry trade associations. Later targets of Anonymous hacktivism included government agencies of the U.S., Israel, Tunisia, Uganda, and others; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant; child pornography sites; copyright protection agencies; the Westboro Baptist Church; and corporations such as PayPal, MasterCard, Visa, and Sony. Anons have publicly supported WikiLeaks and the Occupy movement. Related groups LulzSec and Operation AntiSec carried out cyberattacks on U.S. government agencies, media, video game companies, military contractors, military personnel, and police officers, resulting in the attention of law enforcement to the groups' activities. Some actions by members of the group have been described as being anti-Zionist.

Dozens of people have been arrested for involvement in Anonymous cyberattacks in countries including the U.S., U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Spain, India, and Turkey. Evaluations of the group's actions and effectiveness vary widely. Supporters have called the group "freedom fighters" and digital Robin Hoods while critics have described them as "a cyber lynch-mob" or "cyber terrorists". In 2012, Time called Anonymous one of the "100 most influential people" in the world.

Chaos Computer Club

The Chaos Computer Club (CCC) is Europe's largest association of hackers with 7,700 registered members. It is incorporated as an eingetragener Verein in Germany, with local chapters (called Erfa-Kreise) in various cities in Germany and other German-speaking countries.

Some chapters in Switzerland are organised in the independent sister association Chaos Computer Club Schweiz instead.

The CCC describes itself as "a galactic community of life forms, independent of age, sex, race or societal orientation, which strives across borders for freedom of information...". In general, the CCC advocates more transparency in government, freedom of information, and the human right to communication. Supporting the principles of the hacker ethic, the club also fights for free universal access to computers and technological infrastructure as well as the use of open-source software. The CCC spreads an entrepreneurial vision refusing capitalist control. It has been characterised as "...one of the most influential digital organisations anywhere, the centre of German digital culture, hacker culture, hacktivism, and the intersection of any discussion of democratic and digital rights".Members of the CCC have demonstrated and publicized a number of important information security problems.

The CCC frequently criticizes new legislation and products with weak information security which endanger citizen rights or the privacy of users.

Notable members of the CCC regularly function as expert witnesses for the German constitutional court, organize lawsuits and campaigns, or otherwise influence the political process.

Cult of the Dead Cow

Cult of the Dead Cow, also known as cDc or cDc Communications, is a computer hacker and DIY media organization founded in 1984 in Lubbock, Texas. The group maintains a weblog on its site, also titled "Cult of the Dead Cow". New media are released first through the blog, which also features thoughts and opinions of the group's members.

To further the cult's stated goal of "Global Domination Through Media Saturation," over the years cDc members have granted interviews to major newspapers, print magazines, online news sites, and international television news programs.


Cybergeddon (from tech. cyber-, lit. "computer"; Hebrew: Megiddo, extracted from Har Megiddo ("mountain of final battle") refers to cataclysm resulting from a large-scale sabotage of all computerized networks, systems and activities. It combines cyberterrorism, cyberwarfare, cybercrime, and hacktivism into scenarios of wide-scale internet disruption or economic collapse. Economic or industrial infrastructure could be targeted, such as banks or industrial control systems. Since 2012, the amount of Internet-based attacks and their complexity have increased."Cybergeddon is a possibility," FireEye CEO Ashar Aziz explained in an interview with Bloomberg: "Attacks on critical infrastructures such as the power grid or financial institutions could wreak havoc not just on United States economy, but in fact, the world economy."

Direct action

Direct action originated as a political activist term for economical and political acts in which the actors use their (e. g. economic or physical) power to directly reach certain goals of interest, in contrast to those actions that appeal to others (e. g. authorities) by, for instance, revealing an existing problem, highlighting an alternative, or demonstrating a possible solution. Both direct action and actions appealing to others can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the action participants. Examples of nonviolent direct action (also known as nonviolence, nonviolent resistance, or civil resistance) can include (obstructing) sit-ins, strikes, workplace occupations, street blockades or hacktivism, while violent direct action may include political violence or assaults. Tactics such as sabotage and property destruction are sometimes considered violent. By contrast, electoral politics, diplomacy, negotiation, protests and arbitration are not usually described as direct action, as they are politically mediated. Non-violent actions are sometimes a form of civil disobedience, and may involve a degree of intentional law-breaking where persons place themselves in arrestable situations in order to make a political statement but other actions (such as strikes) may not violate criminal law.The aim of direct action is to either obstruct another political agent or political organization from performing some practice to which the activists object, or to solve perceived problems which traditional societal institutions (governments, religious organizations or established trade unions) are not addressing to the satisfaction of the direct action participants.

Non-violent direct action has historically been an assertive regular feature of the tactics employed by social movements, including Mahatma Gandhi's Indian Independence Movement and the Civil Rights Movement.


Doxing (from dox, abbreviation of documents) or doxxing is the Internet-based practice of researching and broadcasting private or identifiable information (especially personally identifiable information) about an individual or organization.The methods employed to acquire this information include searching publicly available databases and social media websites (like Facebook), hacking, and social engineering. It is closely related to Internet vigilantism and hacktivism.

Doxing may be carried out for various reasons, including to aid law enforcement, business analysis, risk analytics, extortion, coercion, inflicting harm, harassment, online shaming, and vigilante justice.

Electronic civil disobedience

Electronic civil disobedience (also known as ECD, cyber civil disobedience or cyber disobedience), can refer to any type of civil disobedience in which the participants use information technology to carry out their actions. Electronic civil disobedience often involves computers and the Internet and may also be known as hacktivism. The term "electronic civil disobedience" was coined in the critical writings of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), a collective of tactical media artists and practitioners, in their seminal 1996 text Electronic Civil Disobedience: And Other Unpopular Ideas. Electronic civil disobedience seeks to continue the practices of non violent, yet disruptive protest originally pioneered by Henry David Thoreau who in 1848 published "Civil Disobedience."A common form of ECD is coordination DDoS against a specific target, also known as a virtual sit-in. Such virtual sit-ins may be announced on the internet by hacktivist groups like the Electronic Disturbance Theatre and the borderlands Hacklab.Computerized activism exists at the intersections of politico-social movements and computer-mediated communication. Stefan Wray writes about ECD:

"As hackers become politicized and as activists become computerized, we are going to see an increase in the number of cyber-activists who engage in what will become more widely known as Electronic Civil Disobedience. The same principals of traditional civil disobedience, like trespass and blockage, will still be applied, but more and more these acts will take place in electronic or digital form. The primary site for Electronic Civil Disobedience will be in cyberspace.

Jeff Shantz and Jordon Tomblin write that ECD or cyber disobedience merges activism with organization and movement building through online participatory engagement:Cyber disobedience emphasizes direct action, rather than protest, appeals to authority, or simply registering dissent, which directly impedes the capacities of economic and political elites to plan, pursue, or carry out activities that would harm non-elites or restrict the freedoms of people in non-elite communities. Cyber disobedience, unlike much of conventional activism or even civil disobedience, does not restrict actions on the basis of state or corporate acceptance or legitimacy or in terms of legality (which cyber disobedient view largely as biased, corrupt, mechanisms of elites rule). In many cases recently, people and groups involved in online activism or cyber disobedience are also involving themselves in real world actions and organizing. In other cases people and groups who have only been involved in real world efforts are now moving their activism and organizing online as well.

Hackers in Wonderland

Hackers in Wonderland is a 2000 documentary film, produced and directed by Russell Barnes, about hackers in the United Kingdom. The documentary contains interviews with the hackers, revealing what drives them to hack, and their opinions about hacktivism.


Hacktivismo is an offshoot of CULT OF THE DEAD COW (cDc), whose beliefs include access to information as a basic human right. It was founded in 1999.

The group's beliefs are described fully in The Hacktivismo Declaration, which seeks to apply the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Internet. Oxblood Ruffin, the director of Hacktivismo, has argued forcefully against definitions of hacktivism that include web defacements or denial-of-service attacks. Hacktivismo has also authored its own software license agreement, the Hacktivismo Enhanced-Source Software License Agreement (HESSLA). The HESSLA prohibits use or modification that would violate human rights or introduce features that spy on the user.

Honker Union

Honker (simplified Chinese: 红客; traditional Chinese: 紅客; pinyin: hóngkè) or red hacker is a group known for hacktivism, mainly present in China. Literally the name means "Red Guest", as compared to the usual Chinese transliteration of hacker (黑客, hēikè, literally Black Guest as in black hat).

The word "Honker" emerged after May 1999, when the United States bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia and since then, Honkers formed a Honker Union, whose members combined hacking skills with patriotism and nationalism, and launched a series of attacks on websites in the United States, mostly government-related sites.

The name also suggests that a hacker in red, the color of the Communist party, is in combat with hackers in the dark. In the following years, Honkers remained active in hacktivism supporting the Chinese government against what they view as the imperialism of the United States and the militarism of Japan.

The group is currently merged with the Red Hacker Alliance.

Israeli Elite Force

Israeli Elite Force (iEF) is a hacktivism group founded two days before OpIsrael on April 5, 2013 that is responsible for multiple high-profile computer attacks and large scale online vandalism. Targets include ISPs, domain registrars, commercial websites, educational institutions, and government agencies. The group's core members are: MR.H4CK3R.404 , mitziyahu, Buddhax, amenefus, bl4z3, r3str1ct3d, Mute, Cyb3rS74r, Oshrio, Aph3x, xxtr, Kavim, md5c, Cpt|Sparrow, gal-, gr1sha, nyxman and TheGodOfHell.

Jewish Internet Defense Force

The Jewish Internet Defense Force (JIDF) is an organization that uses social media to mobilize support for campaigns against websites and Facebook groups that promote or praise what it describes as Islamic terrorism or antisemitism. The group's website describes the JIDF as a "private, independent, non-violent protest organization representing a collective of activists". The JIDF's work has been termed "hacktivism" by some media outlets.

Keren Elazari

Keren Elazari (born 1980) is an Israeli-born cyber security analyst and senior researcher at the Tel Aviv University Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center with an emphasis on hackers and technology and their social implications. Her research interests include issues of hacktivism, information and cyber punk.

She was born and raised in Tel Aviv.


MalSec (an abbreviation of "Malicious Security") is a splinter faction of Anonymous that pledges to use hacktivism ethically to empower people. The group has said that they want to turn away from their trickster ways and become a more forthright force fighting censorship on the internet and improving the security of the net with free pentests.

Neural (magazine)

Neural is a print magazine established in 1993 dealing with new media art, electronic music and hacktivism. It was founded by Alessandro Ludovico and Minus Habens Records label owner Ivan Iusco in Bari (Italy). In its first issue (distributed in November 1993) there was the only translation in Italian of the William Gibson's Agrippa (a book of the dead) book.

Oxblood Ruffin

Oxblood Ruffin is a Canadian hacker. He is a member of the hacker group Cult of the Dead Cow (cDc), for which he serves as "Foreign Minister." He is also the founder and executive director of Hacktivismo, an offshoot of cDc. Ruffin is active in human rights causes and is a vocal proponent of hacktivism, a term which he has helped to define. He has participated in both technology and human rights conferences, both on his own and along with cDc. He also has written articles for The Register and .net. Ruffin is also an infrequent contributor to both the cDc blog and the Hacktivismo News blog.

Script kiddie

In programming and hacking culture, a script kiddie, skiddie, or skid is an unskilled individual who uses scripts or programs developed by others to attack computer systems and networks and deface websites. It is generally assumed that most script kiddies are juveniles who lack the ability to write sophisticated programs or exploits on their own and that their objective is to try to impress their friends or gain credit in computer-enthusiast communities. However, the term does not relate to the actual age of the participant. The term is considered to be somewhat derogatory.

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