It seems like every day at the moment, that there is the report of a new group of computer hackers, or an existing one that hasn’t been caught yet, breaking into and disrupting the online activity of a large corporation or online firm. They might cause it to slow down, they might steal data or they might cause it to shut down all together. But for what reasons do they go to all this effort, especially when money is not a goal?
Look at the latest claim by a group of hackers called LulzSec which says that it managed to bring down the public section of the CIA’s website: CIA.gov. There were reports from various news agencies that the website did appear to be inaccessible for parts of Wednesday (15th June 2011) and the group Tweeted the message: “Tango down – cia.gov – for the lulz”. LulzSec claim that it used a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack, which floods the target server with inbound requests until it crashes. This was not there first target either as they have been responsible for several major online attacks this year already and have been raising the profile of hacker groups along with others such as a group called, ‘Anonymous’. Who in fact may be the same group or at least be made up of many or some of the same members.
Of course there are hackers who will use their skills for evil (i.e. stealing stuff) but LulzSec and Anonymous are both activists. Their efforts are largely aimed at companies and corporations who they believe have not acted in the best interests of citizens or consumers. This is of course disputed by the companies or corporations involved in every instance, but the groups have exposed flaws in the security of some companies and brought websites to a grinding halt because they believe they have done wrong. They have also been part of political movements like their support for the people of Iran after allegation of vote rigging and subsequent demonstrations and riots, where the government tried to censor news online.
While the work of these groups is often altruistic, there must be an element of prestige sought by these groups. Being able to present themselves and their actions on a global scale must be a thrill especially as repercussions can include arrest. Some will argue that their efforts are just a bunch of geeks causing chaos there will always be just as many people happy to see that someone is ‘fighting the good fight’ for people online.
Whatever your opinion on hackers and their actions they are certainly set to be a bigger part of global life in the future. Let’s hope they mostly use their powers for good.
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