Hacktivism is defined as the act of breaking into a computer system to promote a political or social agenda. This behavior can be used to punish a business for what the hacker sees as unethical behavior or can be used to garner attention to the hacker's "cause" and spread a message to the widest possible audience. Unfortunately, this type of behavior has become quite commonplace in today's culture. In October 2015, a teenager hacked the AOL account of the director of the CIA to call attention to violence in Palestine; in early November 2015, ISIS hacked approximately 54,000 Twitter accounts to post personal information of the heads of the CIA and FBI; in December 2015 the website of an international architecture firm was hacked by an Islamic group called Green Hat, which posted a 14–minute video touting Islam and Sharia law, and questioning other religious faiths.
These and other cyber hacks have prompted more discussion of the fine line between political activism and cyber-terrorism. Whether characterized as political or criminal, most observers agree the frequency and scope of hacktivism is likely to increase. In this environment, businesses would be well-advised to reexamine the security of their websites and social media accounts. In addition, every company should have a plan in place for immediately addressing the negative attention it undoubtedly will receive in the unfortunate event it becomes a hacktivism victim.
Check out our series, Privacy Perils, to learn what steps you can take to guard your personal and company data. For more information about this topic and other cyber security concerns, please contact Bob Brewer, Tony McFarland, Elizabeth Warren or a member of our Privacy & Data Security team.