Hacktivists more active when the economy’s bad

Organisations are at less risk of hacktivist attacks during periods of economic growth, experts have claimed.

Hacktivists more active when the economy's bad

So-called hacktivism is in decline, according to McAfee, but that’s not likely to be a permanent trend, said Michael J Driscoll, assistant legal counsel at the American Embassy, at InfoSec Europe.

“Hacktivism… is cyclical,” he said, saying that when the economy is not doing well “there is a rise in hacktivism”.

An example of this is the hacktivist group Anonymous, which started to launch large scale attacks after the beginning of the recession.

Driscoll said this isn’t a new pattern and in fact predates the internet. “”When things get bad, people get involved in ideological groups. When things improve, they move away,” he said.

However, that doesn’t mean hacktivism stops during more prosperous periods, only that it is carried out by a hardcore of “true believers”, limiting their actions to smaller scale activities.

Money’s no motivator

The economic timing doesn’t mean money motivates hacktivists. Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, said big attacks are normally provoked by ideology or pride.

“They don’t go after just anyone, their attacks are targeted and they are not interested in money,” he said.

He pointed to Anonymous’ attack on HBGary in 2011, which followed CEO Aaron Barr claiming he has managed to infiltrate the collective and unmask a number of its members.

In retaliation, Anonymous hacked the security company’s website and defaced it, then managed to extract 68,000 messages from the company’s email server and dump them wholesale on the internet. “That’s a pretty damning thing to do to a security company,” he said.

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