Hacktivism: A Path to Exploitation


In 2013, “over 2.7 million people are using the Internet”. Of those million, there are many who use the Internet as a tool to aid them in manhunts of other people.  These people who participate in human-flesh search engines , which has become an reoccurring instance not only in China but the U.S. as well, search for others (which includes hacking into peoples computers to obtain personal information) who have done something that they did not like and fell as though they need to be punished for their actions.

For example, Netizens searched for Wang Jiao after she stomped a kitten to death.  The location of her home, her phone number, and employer were all made public, and she eventually left town. Wei became top priority to find when it was found out he was cheating on his wife, who had committed suicide.  The human-flesh search found his personal information and “even his brother’s license-plate number”. Or how about the people on 4Chan  who found Mary Bale who threw a kitten into a garbage can. Bale later had to be placed under police protection due to death threats.

Here in the U.S., Jessi  Slaughter (not her actual name), who later attempted suicide, became the target of 4Chan when she posted a video on YouTube threatening “to put a glock in her enemies mouths”  over rumors that were being spread about her. Anonymous people added her as a friend on Facebook and obtained her personal information (which is known as doxxing) and exploited her phone number and home address, sent her death threats, and even sent girls from Craigslist to her house!

In addition to these situations, hacktivism is involved in political movements/ beliefs as well.  When Pakistan blocked the IP address to the Youtube video that was an anti-Islam movie, it caused protest and conflict among Pakistians. The website WikiLeaks, lead by Julian Assange, has been created by the collaborative work of hackers to publish secret information about the government, mostly following the “hacker ethic” which two main premises: “: (1) all information should be free; (2) mistrust authority and promote decentralization.” Hacking has also affected the U.S. economy.  According to Fisher, the Syrian Electronic Army cost Dow’s stock market $136 billion as a result of hacking the Associated Press Twitter account, tweeting that Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House. Anonymous, which is describe as the “modern-day trickser” Somini Sengupta describes in her article, once hacked into the calls of F.B.I agents and even breached the computer systems of the Federal Reserve and tampered data of the Emergency Communications System.  In May of this year, an individual from Anonymous, known as “AnonTaiwan” hacked into Philippine government websites by tampering with DNS servers, which interfered and delayed the Philippine election, in outrage of a Philippine coast guard killing a Taiwanese fisherman. It is predicted that Anonymous may come back this year as well, but not as a big of a threat they have been.

Hacking has been around since the 1960’s, and has taken over peoples personal information, putting it in public’s view. Not only has it affected peoples’ personal lifes, hackitivism has become an online community which acts as a voice for people, such as Anonymous and the Hong Kong Blondes, to express there support and/or, mostly, opposition against a political or economic situation.

Do you think people have the right to take part in human-flesh searches to punish people for wrong doings or something that they do not agree with?

Should hackers be punished for exploiting other people’s personal information online?

Is it ethical for people, such as Anonymous, to hack personal and classified information to exploit and challenge political/economic order?  Do you agree with the “hacker ethic”?  Why or why not?

Finally, do you think the concept of hatcktivism culture (expressing personal opinions by using digitize media and exploiting personal information) is ethical by the means of freedom of expression?

IMAGE SOURCE as well as detailed information about the different types of hackers: http://www.truthliesdeceptioncoverups.info/2013/05/hacking-classification-test-hackers-vs.html

Detailed information about blocking internet traffic: (http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/02/25/how-a-pakistani-isp-briefly-shut-down-youtube/)

More information of the affect of the Pakistan conflict with YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOourQtDuJY


16 thoughts on “Hacktivism: A Path to Exploitation

  1. Well it’s obviously not okay to hunt people down and threaten or harm them based on something they have done, regardless of how bad. We live in the USA, not the Wild West here! I believe that if hackers do anything to harm someone by exploiting their information regardless of guilt or innocence, they should be punished, probably for harassment. I also don’t think that it is ethical to disrupt order in the world politically and economically, just for the heck of it. These are the kind of people who really just want to watch the world burn. I don’t agree with the hacker ethic because it’s just ridiculous. We should all do unto others as we would want them to do unto us. I think activism depending on the type violates laws, and is in no way an acceptable form of freedom of expression.

  2. I feel that hacktivists and the art of hacking is something very wrong and is not yet been cracked down on simply because we can’t catch them in time. They are always several steps ahead and I think it is cool that people have this power over the government. But the harm that comes from this is just really wrong and I think the people that are doing aren’t noble or anything way they try to validate it by acting as some hero exposing the truths the government doesn’t want you to see. But that is not the reality of what these hackers mainly do. I think they spend more time trying to hack celebs private pictures and information that extremely intrusive and morally wrong in my opinion. If it wasn’t for hackers the way we pay for technology and media would be so much different. And in a way I am grateful for stealing control of music, so that they can’t rip us off as bad when the artists themselves are only getting a fraction of their own works. But overall I feel it is something that I hope someday will be cracked down on, but like I said, that is somewhat unlikely any time soon.

  3. I believe that people have a right to privacy, and if they are harmed by hactivists who illegally or unethically obtaining their information, then the hactivists should be held accountable to the laws of their states and countries of residence. If those states and countries don’t have laws to protect the privacy of their citizens, then they should create them in accordance with their constitutions. Technology is rapidly changing both access to information and the ability to do harm and political leaders and forward thinking companies need to evolve equally as fast to prevent the illegal exploitation of innocent people. I believe the line becomes more blurred when “guilty” people are concerned. By committing a crime or making a hurtful / ill advised comment do you lose the right for privacy and how long should you pay for that mistake? Those question are certainly more difficult to answer and are the shield that good and bad hactivists stand behind.

  4. I do not completely disagree with hacker ethic. If the hack is done to challenge or protest government actions by informing the rest of the public, I see it as fair game. When hackers cause a large disruption of the internet order I would describe it as an inconvenience that I would rather not face. If hacking is done, I would prefer for it to have some sort of social implications.

    I do think hackers should be punished for placing personal information of others online because it violates personal privacy. When it comes to organizations or governments it can be considered a type of public figure, with less of an impact and a respect to privacy is not the same as an individual.

  5. I agree with the hack ethic to a certain degree because sometimes people need to know information that is hidden from the public and studies show people often times are way too trusting of authority figures. Hacktivists however, take this notion to the extreme by saying all information should be free and everyone should mistrust the government. First off, all information can’t be free because if it was there would most certainly be people who would exploit it. I think most of the time the government tries to withhold information for its benefit and for ours but there’s really no way for us to know for sure. The hacktivists serve as a checks and balances to keep the government honest. I do find it hard to believe hacktivists truly live by their codes and I’d be willing to bet they preach those things simply because it favors their real objective. It only makes sense that hackers would think all information should be free. It seems to me like the main agenda is to be a thorn in the government’s side rather than to fight for information freedom.

    With that being said hackers should be punished for exploiting information that leads to the death of an individual or for personal gain. There is nothing legally wrong with a person using the internet to find information and in fact that is one of its greatest assets. Depending on what you do with that information should be the deciding factor of whether or not it is legal and ethical. I just find it hard to say that searching for information is unethical but exploiting it most certainly is.

  6. While this topic can go both ways, people should not take part in human-flesh searches to punish people for wrong doings. I think that is not necessary at all and it makes the world continue to be a place of hate and crime. Although I do think if a hacker exploits other peoples information online they should be punished, possibly even go to jail. That is something I think the government does not take seriously enough. I don’t think it is ethical for people to hack personal classified information to exploit the political/economic order. I don’t agree with the hacker ethic because not all information should be free. I think that hackers need to learn how to live with life the way it is. Even if people want to go as far and say that something is by means of freedom of expression, I dont think any type of hacking is ethical in any way.

  7. No I do not think that people have the right to take part in human-flesh searches to punish people for wrong doings or something that they do not agree with. That’s basically like ruining someone’s life. I think if you wanted to punish someone you could go about it a different way.

    I do think that hackers should be punished for exploiting other people’s personal information online, because then that’s giving other people the opportunity to find them and put them in harms way. I think that hackers should be punished because they need to learn their lesson so that they won’t do it again.

    No it’s definitely not ethical for people like Anonymous to hack personal and classified information to exploit and challenge political/economic order. I do not agree with the “hacker ethic,” I don’t think that everything should be free. There are some things like personal information that I believe deserves to remain private.

  8. Well this is a very interesting topic. I think it is hard to give a definite answer because there always are certain exceptions, but 99% of the time hacking is not ok. I don’t agree with the hacker ethic. It is truly life changing to those involved if their private information is released or the wrong person gets a hold of it. It is scary what people can do. I do not think the hacktivist culture is acceptable. That definitely is not called freedom of expression in my eyes. Personal information is supposed to be private for a reason.

  9. To answer all of the questions: No, I do not think it’s ethical. I don’t know why hacker’s think they have the right. Just because you were wrong, doesn’t mean you should do wrong back. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. If someone’s private information is released, it could ruin their whole lives. If someone has done something and you think he needs to be reprimanded, there are other ways to do so. Hacking is a cheap and dirty way to get what you want, and it only spreads more bad into the world.

    I definitely think that hackers should be punished for exposing people’s personal information online.

  10. It’s illegal to hack into corporate information, classified files and personal computers and if so, some believe that breaking the law unethical. As for exposure and exploitation of personal information, I believe it is unethical when so-called Hacktivists hide behind false names and anonymity. Human flesh searches are a lot like modern day vigilantes, where hackers become the dispensers of justice and pass judgment and punishment on those they believe deserve it.

  11. Although I do not agree with how organizations accomplish their goals I feel they have helped protect the internet from an ever tightening noose. When they organize digital sit in on major establishments for selling personal info I feel they are one hundred percent in the right. But I feel the line begins to blur when they start exploiting personal information of others to achieve their goal. This is a bit like the vigilante that will stop at nothing to solve a wrong doing. I do agree with the ends of their missions for the most part but the means they take are often almost as bad as the people that they are punishing.

    As for the Hacker Ethic, I personally agree with them on the decentralization of authority on the internet, but to say all info should be free is crazy. People and companies deserve to make money off of the internet just as they would off of it. If a person has spent time and money collecting information into a central location they deserve to make money off of the work that they did. If that means charging for access then so be it. The fact that the internet is not housed in a single location or even within a single nation leads to the fact that the power should be decentralized. No one government should have the right to block or remove content from the web. If a governing body does need to exist it should be a body of people from multiple nations, maybe like the UN a bit/ This would help create a less bias and safer internet.

  12. I don’t have any philosophical problems with entities like wikileaks. Our nation’s wealth and power was won at a great human cost. I support entities that seek governmental transparency in this modern world. I don’t really have a problem with ‘hacktivist’ trouble makers like anonymous either. The news coverage of groups like anonymous is ALWAYS distorted and seldom trustworthy.

  13. I think it’s absolutely horrible that people track down others on the internet and release their personal information, no matter any circumstance. This should be left up to the authorities and professionals, who can do it more discreet and less people can be hurt. I know people can get angry and let their emotions get the best of them, but they really need to see through this and calm down. If they are guilty of a crime and people now about it on the internet, odds are the authorities will handle the situation. Hacktivists can be really powerful and I do believe some of the things that Anonymous does are unethical, but they just want to get the right answers from the right people.

  14. When people refer to Hacktivism, it means that people who are hacking (breaking into the computer system without authorization) computers through a busy network usually leave an incorrupt message for political reasons or try to cause damage to someone for something that the hacker didn’t like. There is a debate whether Hacktivism is considered a crime or a form of freedom of speech. For example, if this type of freedom of speech causes an accident where people are injured, as what happens to a Chinese air man mentioned in this website http://www.afcea.org/smallbusiness/files/Year2010Archive/West2010/ESET_WorldWideWeaponization_Debrosse_WEST2010.pdf, Hacktivism has to be treated as a criminal action. There is a huge market for Hacktivism in the political world even if it is only to get attention from the media or to create a lot of destruction; for example, the person who sent the letters to Obama carrying a type of poison; that person’s intent was to start a temporary decentralization of government by knocking off the highest political figure in the U.S., the president.
    Referring to your first question; I don’t believe people have the right to search for people over the internet with the intention of enacting their own form of justice and punishing supposedly guilty parties. This is called vigilante justice and causes the person to go down a “slippery slope”.
    Should hackers be punished for exploiting other people’s personal information online? Hackers, (novice through professional) who exploit other people’s information without their permission, should be prosecuted accordingly in a court of law.
    Is it ethical for people, such as Anonymous, to hack personal and classified information to exploit and challenge political/economic order? Do you agree with the “hacker ethic”? Why or why not? Hacking with the intention to exploit and challenge political /economic order is too much of a Pandora’s Box to open. The Hacker Ethical Code of free information and decentralized, non-trustable government shows no respect to the personhood of anyone because personal boundaries are not respected and chaotic conflict is encouraged.
    Finally, do you think the concept of hatcktivism culture (expressing personal opinions by using digitize media and exploiting personal information) is ethical by the means of freedom of expression? With freedom of expression comes responsibility and consequence; you can say whatever you want but does that give you “the right” to denigrate, dehumanize and destroy someone’s name, image and personhood? Hacking has its place when it’s used, with permission, by companies to improve the security of their systems that contain confidential information. If hacking is used for purposes other than this, then the motives become more murky and questionable.

  15. Hactivism is a serious issue as stated by your post .Death threats, suicide and relocating due to feeling harmed are major problems. This should be put to an end. I agree with the first ammendment freedom of speech and people should be able to openly express how they feel but when it puts a life in danger than freedom of speech seems to be a quite ambiguous definition to consider.

  16. This is a great post and it’s full of useful information. To answer your question about human-flesh searching, it is a sticky subject to me.
    I feel as though if people post videos of themselves stopping on cats or other horrific acts, they should know that there is obviously going to be an onslaught of backlash towards it. Why anybody would want to do this in the first place is beyond me….This is where I can see where the human-flesh searchers have their reasons. Why shouldn’t these horrible people be sought out and punished for their crimes?
    However, there is a price to pay with this. These searchers stop at nothing to find out information about the people they’re after. Everything that they can hack or access becomes fair game and the people they’re after can have their lives ruined forever. Some deserve the punishment they receive, like the cat stomping lady, but others don’t deserve what comes to them. If you post something online that people don’t like, people could come after you, expose everything in your life and send your life spiraling out of control.
    In the end, I think human-flesh searching can be a positive thing if you have the right facts and information. However, I think at this point with no regulations or rules about it, it is a very scary idea. I know I wouldn’t want someone searching out all of my information and basically blackmailing me to ruin my life for some reason.

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