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Case Stury Essay

4098 words - 17 pages

SETUP.EXE  Civil disobedience has long been an integral part of the democratic process in the United  States. Those dissenters in Boston who disrupted trade in 1773 as a protest against unfair laws  and business practices could not have imagined the modern­day equivalent: computer  "hacktivists" (hacker + activist) leveraging exploits against digital networks to accomplish more  or less the same thing. This case study explores the ways in which the general public, news  media, lawmakers, and law enforcement have reacted to the more contentious hacktivist  incidents that have transpired in the United States since 2009.   ...view middle of the document...

 Business owners may fund  clandestine hacktivist "protests" to hurt their competition, or hate groups may use this clause to  advance oppression. If the punishments for breaking the law are lowered so as to allow for more  moderate sentences in activist cases, then the more malicious hackers would simply plead  "activist" to avoid long prison terms.   This burgeoning phenomenon of hacktivism remains considerably unfamiliar to many  people, and lacks definition. These incidents involve actors (hacktivists) working to disrupt the  digital operations of a company or government body as a way of pushing a political agenda or 
drawing attention to perceived malfeasance. There is a debate over which methods are ethically  permissible in pursuit of such a cause, and this discourse has shaped the semantic definition.   
Technical Information  A hacker group known as The Cult of the Dead Cow coined the term "hacktivism" in  1996 (Casserly, 2012), although it has only recently entered common parlance. A portmanteau of  the words "hack" and "activism," defines it as "the practice of gaining  unauthorized access to a computer system and carrying out various disruptive actions as a means  of achieving political or social goals" (hacktivism, 2014). The term "hacking" has come to  connote unauthorized digital activity, though it originally did not signify criminality. "Activism"  on the other hand, is a term that acquired a positive connotation­­as a kind of civic duty when  done within the confines of the law, the public generally smiles upon it. Hacktivism,  consequently, is the grey area where these endeavors overlap. Whenever actors are willing to  break the law in pursuit of what they claim to be a noble cause, their actions demand higher  scrutiny, and this is precisely such a case.  According to Julian Assange, the Editor­in­Chief of the influential and notorious  Wikileaks website, the first hacktivist act occurred in October of 1989. At that time, protesters  concerned with the hazards of nuclear power may have been responsible for developing the  computer worm known as WANK (Worms Against Nuclear Killers) that infected machines at  NASA and the US Department of Energy (Assange, 2006). The WANK worm was traced back  to New Zealand but never to any individual or group. It was not particularly destructive; a  computer infected with the worm would occasionally interrupt the user with a diverting political  message before spreading itself.  In the Internet age, those computer networks that were once recondite have become  ubiquitous. The viral media phenomenon provides a natural fuel for hacktivism, even as the  nuanced methods and justifications of these endeavors become lost in the buzz. There can be said  to be two "schools" of hacktivist methods: orthodox and direct. Orthodox hacktivism is  concerned with technologically novel approaches to provoke political or cultural change through ...

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