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Dec 28, 2011

From Hacker to Hacktivists

By, Nofia FITRI


“It is never the technical stuff that gets you in trouble. It is the personalities and the politics.” (Rick Cook, Wizardry Compiled)


Considering the media’s publications of the hacker’s conceptions, firstly I do need to quote a short clear statement “a hack is a net programming trick and a hacker is a computer virtuoso, and it was a hacker that created the technology and computer programs that make up the internet we all take for granted today.” (Paul Miller, 2001:4). We might have been found how did the media defined a hacker with a wrong perception, while there are many articles still ongoing published to make a clarification for it. For instance, some scholars even indentified hacker as a semi-criminal individual while on the contrary there was no computer innovations either internet revolution without the roles of hacker.

Hacker defines as “someone who enjoys tinkering with computers to find concrete solutions to technical problems” (Taylor, 1999). Hackers believe that they should promote the free flow of information, and causing anything to disrupt, prevent, or retard that flow is improper. Steven Levy (1984) through his famous book “Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution” articulated the hacker tenets:

1.    Access to computers should be unlimited and total.
2.    All information should be free.
3.    Mistrust authority - promote decentralization.
4.    Hackers should be judged by their hacking not bogus criteria such as degrees,   age, race, or position.
5.    You create art and beauty on a computer.
6.    Computers can change your life for the better





Alexandra Samuel (2004) quoted a definition of hactivism from Graham Meikle (2000) as “the marriage of political activist and computer hacking” then described the hactivism as detail:

“An engaged politics which seeks solutions in software in the search for a specific technological fix to a social problem. So it refers to any use of computer technology for political ends, including diverse on-line practices: cross-border: information sharing, action planning and coordination via personal emails: chat rooms and electronic distribution list.”

The way of hacktivism expansion from just a hacking politics into the new social movement in the modern era may reflected from the statement of analyst Ted Julian from Yankee Group which he said "when we look back years from now we'll see this as a tipping point in 'hactivism' going from largely a theoretical threat to something that's more a day-to-day issue." (Guardian, 2010).

Meanwhile Conway (2007) argued “hacktivists, although they use the Internet as a site for political action, are not cyberterrorists either. They view themselves as heirs to those who employ the tactics of trespass and blockade in the realm of real-world protest. They are, for the most part, engaged in disruption not destruction.” Thus the things that hacktivist have been doing are to promote the freedom of information through the internet, to transform the message of hackers’ beliefs about the future of world. Hence they are struggling for the global justice, human rights, and freedom.

The most familiar and prior hacktivism group may the Cult of the Dead Cow (CDC) who has sought to combine a humorous with a hardened attitude to corporate power on the Net. This group created “Goolag” a vulnerability software. They announced the release of Goolag Scanner, a webauditing tool which enables everyone to audit his or her own website via Google. The scanner technology is based on "Google hacking," a form of vulnerability research developed by Johnny I Hack Stuff (Metac0m, 2003). The method in which “Goolag” was released achieved four things; “1) an increased awareness of Website vulnerabilities, 2) an increased awareness of Google’s compliance with censorship practices in China, 3) refreshed the public of the presence of the cDc, and 4) promoted a tool that can be used for more constructive purposes.” (Ranario, 2008).

Another well-known hacktivism group is a Net based affinity group called ‘the Electronic Disturbance Theater’ (EDT). This group of hacktivist pushed and agitated for new experimentation with electronic civil disobedience actions aimed mostly at the Mexican government. They coordinated a series of Web sit-ins in support of the Mexican anti-government group, the Zapatistas. EDT created the Flood Net software which internet users once downloaded on to an individual’s computer automatically connects the surfer to a preselected Web site, and every seven seconds the selected site’s reload button is automatically activated by the software. It worked by thousands of people use Flood Net on the same day, the combined effect of such a large number of activists will disrupt the operations of a particular site.

Those two hacktivism groups mentioned above are the most well-know since the hacktivism movement emergent. Following it, in the spring of 1998, a young British hacker known as "JF" accessed about 300 web sites and placed antinuclear text and imagery while Milw0rm broke into computer systems at India’s Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bombay (BARC) in a protest against nuclear weapons tests. Kaotik Team defaced 45 Indonesian Websites to include messages calling for full autonomy for East Timor. In 1999, The ElectroHippies a group of hacktivist in Britain organised a cyber protest whereby anybody who wanted to could join together to repeatedly ‘ping’ the WTO website. They used the tehcnique of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack during the Seattle World Trade Organisation (WTO) protest.

The latest issue on hacktivism may the wikileaks phenomenon at the end of 2010. This whistleblower controversial was not only bring more attention on government and citizens relation about secrecy and leak but also the internet freedom, press freedom, democracy, and hacker culture. The hacktivism action as a response to the global constellation emergent through the Operation Payback to support the wikileaks. It appeared by the hacking action of the Anonymous-Anonops. This unorganized group of hackers attacked the VİSA, Mastercard and Paypal with denial of service attack technique (DDoS). In their efforts they organized the payback action through social Networks such Twitter and Facebook, and chating server IRC. In an online letter, Anonymous said its activists were neither vigilantes nor terrorists. It added: "The goal is simple: Win the right to keep the Internet free of any control from any entity, corporation, or government." (Reuter, 2010).

To understand the hacktivism as deeply we need to see the way of hacktivism itself put an attention into the hacking-computer and idealism on politics. These excerpts below are reflecting the main ideology of the hacktivism movements:


-          The Cult of the Dead Cow, “The Hacktivismo Declaration”

“We recognize the right of governments to forbid the publication of properly categorized state secrets, child pornography, and matters related to personal privacy and privilege, among other accepted restrictions. But we oppose the use of state power to control access to the works of critics, intellectuals, artists, or religious figures...we will study ways and means of circumventing state sponsored censorship of the Internet and will implement technologies to challenge information rights violations.” (Ruffin, 2001)

-          The Electrohippies, “Client-side Distributed Denial-of-Service”

The structure of the client-side distributed actions developed by the electrohippies means that there must be widespread support across a country, or continent in order to make the system work. Our method has built within it the guarantee of democratic accountability. If people don't vote with their modems, the collective action would be an abject failure. Fundamentally, it's the mode of the protest on the Internet that is important when evaluating the legitimacy of the action. (DJNZ, 2001)

-          The Electronic Disturbance Theater, “On Electronic Civil Disobedience”

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. (Wray, 1998)

-          The Anonymous-Anonops

"We're against corporations and government interfering on the internet. We believe it should be open and free for everyone. Governments shouldn't try to censor because they don't agree with it. Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet. If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with. (Guardian, 2010)


The hacktivism movement has been attracted different perceptions of public society. Some accepted it as a new phenomenon of political participation and communication in the modern era; hence the hacktivism movement could be one of the ways of democracy expansion while some rejected and uncompromised by the legal hacking computer methods build by the hacker-activists. In other way, based on the Samuel’s argument the hacktivism movement has raises questions about the way that free speech and anonymity have been formulated by theorists of deliberative democracy, and it also poses a larger problem for would-be discursive democrats. She mentioned that “hacktivism illustrates the challenge of enforcing any rules of deliberative discourse; without enforceable rules, the proceduralist vision of deliberative democracy may have to give way to a more amorphous form of online deliberation.” According to Samuel “hacktivists can elude the mechanisms that allow states to enforce policy, pursuing policy circumvention rather than policy change. Also the keys are the characteristics that go along with hacktivism’s digital nature: like most forms of Internet communication it can be anonymous, trans- and multinational, and take advantage of many-to-many and one-to many communications” (Samuel, 2007: 27).


Source: Nofia Fitri,  Democracy Discourses through the Internet Communication: Understanding the Hacktivism for the Global Changing, www.ojcmt.net/articles/121.pdf .

1 comment:

Siapa Aja Boleh:) said...

Hatur nuhun, Mbak, pikeun inpormasinana, kuring janten ngartos masalah Hacktivism, euy..