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Hacktivism, Freedom of Speech or Cyber Terrorism

In: Computers and Technology

Submitted By Rubbrbandman
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Hacktivism, Freedom of Speech or Cyber Terrorism?
Josh T. Diehl
ITT-Tech Institute

Abstract
I will be doing my research paper on Hacktivism and looking into the subsector that is known as “Anonymous”. Hacktivism in itself is the use of computers and computer networks to promote political ends. To see this for what it truly can be, you must look at it with the understanding that it can be carried out under the same premise that proper (and skillful) use of technology can produce results similar to these of conventional acts of protest, activism, and civil disobedience.
I plan on exploring whether it is freedom of speech or cyber terrorism, keeping an open mind when conducting my research will be the key to the integrity of this paper. I plan on researching online articles and post from credible sources. I will make set times while I am not at work to research and write this.
Body
First we need to look at what exactly is hacktivism and who practices it. Hacktivism in itself is defined as “The use of computers and computer networks to promote political ends, chiefly free speech, human rights, and information ethics. It is carried out under the premise that proper use of technology can produce results similar to those of conventional acts of protest, activism, and civil disobedience.” Certain groups such as Anonymous use this form (among others) as their way to speak out against what they see as injustice.
We need to look closely, past the top layer of information, to get to the honest truth about the situation. Is this right or wrong? Is actually making an effect (wither that would be a positive or negative one)?

So just who is Anonymous?
During a press release in 2010, Anonymous wanted to clarify who they are and what they do. They took this opportunity to communicate a message to the media so that the “Average Internet Citizen” can know who they are and what they represent. They went on to say this, “Anonymous is not a group of hackers. We are Average Internet Citizen ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness”
Anonymous is a literal embodiment of the virtual cyber-city. A hyper-realized community of activist and hackers uniting towards common goals and undeniable provoking change.” They are a collective of many, many people that are like a flash mob. They appear suddenly, act quickly, and then disappear. Think of them, if you will, as an internet gathering with a very loose and decentralized command structure that operates on ideas rather than directives.
They have been called “Freedom Fighters” & “Digital Robin Hoods” from those who believe that what they are doing is justice to the injustice of the system. While those who try and defend said system, such as critics, has described them as a “Cyber Lynch-Mob”.
“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 only by the wearing of stylized Guy Fawkes Mask.

Mark Rasch, the Chief Privacy Officer at SAIC, said “It’s not like you throw them in jail and they disappear. It’s sort of like squeezing Jell-O, it just moves somewhere else. Criminalized under the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) classifies most of Anonymous’s movements as, Conspiracy and “intentional damage to a protected computer”, also, “Violating a web site’s ‘Terms of Service’ and can ‘cause damages’.”
What have they been involved in?
Over the years, Anonymous has been involved in over 85+ hacktivism’s or what they call Operations / Movements / Projects, including Operation PayBack, and Avenge Assange.
Their typical M.O. is using what they call the “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” or LOIC to deliver what is known as a “Distributed Denial of Service” or DDOS attacks.
A DDOS attack floods a web site server with traffic from a network of sometimes thousands of individual computer networks of serving legitimate traffic. They use the LOIC as an application to carry out their DDOS attacks at a greater strength. One should note that this method was used in both Project Chanology and Operation Payback.
The LOIC is an application developed by 4chan-affilated hackers designed to, when used en mass by the thousands of Anonymous members/user, laugh DDOS attacks on websites by flooding the server with TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) or UDP (User Datagram Protocol) packets with the intention of disrupting the service of a particular host.
Another means of which they can obtain information to be used in hacktivism is called Doxing. Which we define as, involves finding and publishing targets personal or corporate information.
Anonymous has used this method to “dox” members of the Westboro Baptist Church after several tweeted their plans to picket the funerals of Sandy Hook victims. Hackers were able to access “church” members twitter accounts and publish their personal information, including phone numbers, emails, and hotel reservation details.
Operations and Movements Over the years Anonymous has had many movements and operations, as I previously stated, over 85+. One that was done within the last few years and amounted to the world’s biggest military leak in history, is Operation Bradical.
Operation Bradical is all about one man. Bradley Manning, who simply put it as “I want people to see the truth… Regardless of who they are, because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.”
B. Manning was sentenced to 35 years in federal prison for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents and videos. This disclosure amounted to the biggest leak in U.S. military history. One thing to keep in mind is that the longest was 2 years (prior to the Manning trial).
‘This is unprecedented," said Liza Goitein, who co-directs the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program. "It is dramatically longer than the longest sentence ever served for disclosing classified information to the media, which was two years."’
Now we have to look at this subjectively, as this is one of many cases of hacktivist receiving usually harsh punishment, making plea barging’s are highly sought after in the case of an arrest. Let me give you another example of a less severe case over Anonymous involving the FBI.
LuLzSec
Over periods of time Anonymous has had subsectors from the main ideal driven collective, in this case they were called “LuLzSec”. LuLzSec was purely for laughs and giggles, although most of the members of this Sector were highly skilled hackers.
LuLzSec was a group of hackers that just wanted to get some laughs and giggles in their spare time. The name is a contraction of "LuLz", for laughs, and “Sec” for "security", which is what hackers like to compromise. LuLzSec was hitting targets left and right, but never for a profit, most of the hacks were loosely about politics or information, but more for the “fun and laughs” they could achieve.
The members never met in real life, and only knew each other by online handles and only active for a 50-day period before disaster ensued. The one we are going to look at is Hector Xavier Monsegur (a.k.a. “Sabu”). Out of the six-members that made up LuLzSec, Sabu was the unofficial leader of LuLzSec, by definition giving him the most influence in what they did and to whom. After LuLzSec had gone on a hacking spree of commercial targets, Sabu decided it was time to step it up.
Sabu and the other members, then attack a government site, this was the beginning of the end for them. On one online chat room for Anonymous users, Sabu stated to the rest of the LuLzSec group, "You realize we smacked the FBI today. This means everyone in here must remain extremely secure."
When Sabu accidently forgot to hide and mask his IP address, using the Tor system which anonymizes data connections, when logging into that exact same online chat room, the FBI was waiting for him. They were able to track his unprotected IP address right back to his physical address, within a few moments, they were knocking on his door.
Confronting him, they hit him with enough charges, which would add up to around (hypothetical possibility) 126 years in prison on 12 counts. They gave him an offer, be arrested or co-operate. Having recently taken over parental care for his two nieces, who were then aged four and five, didn’t want to see them go into foster care, he chose the latter of the two. This was arguably the turning point for LuLzSec, which one could even say that those two girls decided the fate of LuLzSec. Sabu took the plea bargain and began to work with the FBI after being offline for a week. By the end of July in 2011, all members of LuLzSec had been arrested. Sabu’s punishment was incredibly reduced from a proposed 21-26 years to a mere serving time of only seven-months, after what the judge called “Extraordinarily valuable cooperation with the FBI”. Hammond stated “I was condemned to the maximum prison term for having committed ‘mass mayhem,’ while Sabu received the most lenient of all Anonymous-related sentences for embracing ‘good, not evil.”, he was sentence to a maximum of 10 years for his part in LuLzSec. This was a very, very severely different punishment than Sabu.
Hammond also stated that “Hugs and high-fives all around as Judge Preska saluted Sabu for having betrayed his comrades and his ideals, preventing hundreds of cyber-attacks, and helping the FBI catch their ‘most wanted cybercrime target’.”
“Most pressingly, it has been alleged that, while serving as an informant, Sabu encouraged members of LuLzSec to conduct cyber-attacks on foreign governments. “These intrusions, all of which were suggested by Sabu while cooperating with the FBI, affected thousands of domain names and consisted largely of foreign government websites, including those of Turkey, Brazil, Iran,”.
Hammond said this during his sentencing last year, before being cut off by U.S. District Court Judge Loretta Preska, the same judge that just let Monsegur (a.k.a. Sabu) walk this past May. Hammond went so far as to suggest that the FBI had been using him to launch cyber-attacks around the world, with Sabu acting as the coordinator.
Hammond’s final words before departing to being his sentence were, “The government celebrates my conviction and imprisonment, hoping that it will close the door on the full story. I took responsibility for my actions, by pleading guilty, but when will the government be made to answer for its crimes?”

Currently Involved In
Currently Anonymous is currently involved in the events on going in Ferguson, St. Louis involving the shooting of 17-year old Michael Brown via Police Officer Darren Wilson. Brown was shot 6 times after allegedly raising his hands above his head I means to surrender. New information is being released daily in the situation that is quickly turning from bad, to worse in only a matter of days. Anonymous has said that enough is enough. Now they are threating to DDOS attack and use Doxing on the Ferguson Police Department.
Riots have ensued, the local government has used a city wide curfew, and over 40 FBI agents are in the area investigating this case. The National Guard has also been deployed by Obama saying “They will only have a limited amount of involvement” when he issued the order, but since then things have gotten worse and the National Guard has been actively involved.
Anonymous stated on twitter, “We are watching you very closely. If you abuse, harass – or harm in anyway the protestors in Ferguson, we will take every web based asset of your Departments and Governments offline. This is not a threat, this is a promise. Attacking the protestors will result in the release of personal information on every single member of the Ferguson Police Department.” Following those remarks, Anonymous continued to say, “The time has come for more than simple justice for these atrocities. The time has come to draw a line in the sand. The time has come to bring those to justice, who served to protect us, not kill us.” “Until justice prevails, hack & protest will replace it.” They closed off their remarks with this, “Operation Ferguson engaged. We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do no forgive. We do not forget. Ferguson, expect us.”
Right or Wrong? So this brings me back to the original topic. Do we consider what Anonymous is doing to simply be (hack) activism, or do we believe that what they do should be considered crimes committed in the cyber world? The world is scared of those imbued with the abilities to hack and access information that they believe to be “secure”. Honestly I believe we must take this case by case. If we look at “Operation Bradical” regarding Bradley Manning, yes I believe he broke his oath after swearing and signing contracts to be military, which would then be considered “cyber terrorism”. On the other hand, if we look at the Operation Payback involving Sony, most hackers are only receiving up to year in prison. So is this fair to make an “example” out of one man, while you let the rest off with a slap on the wrist (most of the time).
I would have to say most of what Anonymous does, I agree with. Hacking companies that hoard information in the hopes to monopolize it and turn a profit to just freely release it to the public is right. Hacking and recording data off of military channels, is crossing the line a little bit ehh?

References We Are Legion: The Story of Hacktivist. (2012). Retrieved August 6, 2014, from http://wearelegionthedocumentary.com/ Thompson, C. (2013, January 18). Hacktivism: Civil Disobedience or Cyber Crime? Retrieved August 6, 2014, from http://www.propublica.org/article/hacktivism-civil-disobedience-or-cyber-crime Suen, S. (2012, November 28). Intro to Civic Media: Civil Disobedience and Hacktivism | MIT Center for Civic Media. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from http://civic.mit.edu/blog/s2tephen/intro-to-civic-media-civil-disobedience-and-hacktivism Braybrooke, K. (n.d.). Hacktivism is unbound: An essay by Kat Braybrooke. Retrieved August 6, 2014, from http://hacktivism-is-unbound.tumblr.com/ Jordan, T., & Taylor, P. (2004). Hacktivism and cyberwars: Rebels with a cause? London: Routledge, 2004, from http://soniapedrosebastiao.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/3/9/20393123/20112012_gcc_e-book_hactivism_and_cyberwars.pdf Tate, J. (2013, August 21). Bradley Manning sentenced to 35 years in WikiLeaks case. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/judge-to-sentence-bradley-manning-today/2013/08/20/85bee184-09d0-11e3-b87c-476db8ac34cd_story.html Writer, S. (2014, August 11). Hacker group "Anonymous" threatens Ferguson police department. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://fox2now.com/2014/08/11/hacker-group-anonymous-threatens-ferguson-police-department/…...

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