Hacktivism, a phenomenon specific to the digital age, represents the subversive use of computers and computer networks. The term was coined by the Cult of the Dead Cow in 1994.
Hacktivists represent a broad range of personalities and goals. They’ve recently played a greater role in the collective conscious as cyber attacks at banks and governments become a more regular occurrence.
1. Edward Snowden
President Obama once said of Edward Snowden: “I’m not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker.”
Edward Snowden became notorious after blowing the whistle on mass surveillance in the United States and abroad. It’s been estimated that, since the whistleblowing, Snowden is one of the most powerful figures on Twitter.
I forgot to turn off notifications. Twitter sent me an email for each:
47 gigs of notifications. #lessonlearned
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 1, 2015
2. Aaron Swartz
American hacktivist Aaron Swartz took part in the development of the web feed format RSS, as well as the organization Creative Commons. A partner in Reddit, he ultimately committed suicide while under federal investigation for data-theft.
Arrested by MIT police on January 6, 2011, Swartz faced breaking-and-entering charges due to installing a computer in an Institute closet to download academic journal articles from JSTOR. Federal prosecutors charged him with two counts wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
Swartz faced $1 million in fines and 35 years in prison. Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. When prosecution rejected his counteroffer, he was found dead by hanging in his Brooklyn apartment two days later. In June 2013, Swartz was posthumously inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
3. The Jester
Who The Jester is, nobody knows. He claims responsibility for many, many DoS (Denial of Service) attacks against WikiLeaks, Islamist sites, homophobic sites and the President of Iran. He claims responsibility for developing DoS software, XerXes.
With Wikileaks in the news, almost makes you wonder: Where’s The Jester now?
4. Barrett Brown
Barrett Brown worked closely with Anonymous. The former writer was not a formidable coder or hacker, but he became a marketing figure for the hacking group, including news appearances. Brown has faced numerous charges related to hacking. In January 2015, he was sentenced to 63 months.
5. Hector Xavier Monsegur (Sabu)
Sabu co-founded Lulzsec, going onto receiving press attention after a 50-day hacking spurt targeting the likes of the CIA, Fox, Stratfor, and the US Senate and others. Sabu later turned away from hacktivism, becoming an informant for the FBI and working for them for more than ten months.
6. Jake Davis (Topiary)
This once active member of Anonymous moved onto LulzSec. During a court appearance in 2011, he pleaded guilty to a charge related to a hack on the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s (SOCA) website. Davis ran the LulzSec Twitter account. Details on his computer leaked him to a hack of Sony.
7. Oxblood Ruffin
Canadian hacker Oxblood Ruffin is the “Foreign Minister” of the Cult of the Dead Cow network, a hacktivist group. Oxblood can often be seen in the media criticizing the actions of Anonymous and LulzSec.
8. Deric Lostutter (KYAnonymous)
When two members of an Ohio high school football team were charged with the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl, Lostutter helped leak a video of two Ohio high school football players joking about the rape of an intoxicated 16-year-old girl. He faces charges for hacking a fan page of the football team and could face a 10-year prison sentence.
9. Ron Gonggrijp
This Dutch hacker speaks out against surveillance on citizens by governments and the lack of security in public electronic voting systems. He became a well-known teenage hacker and even appeared in the Jan Jacobs’s book Kraken en Computers (Hacking and computers, Veen uitgevers 1985, ISBN 90-204-2651-6) which details the early hacking scene in the Netherlands. Authorities in the Netherlands and the United States considered him a “major security threat.’
10. Jacob Appelbaum
Appelbaum, a Cult of the Dead Cow member, is reportedly a key player behind Tor and now an American journalist. He is the co-founder of the San Francisco hackerspace Noisebridge and has worked for kink.com and Greenpeace. Appelbaum was a trusted confidant of NSA’s Edward Snowden and had access to Snowden’s top secret documents during the 2013 global surveillance disclosure.
11. Gary Mckinnon
Mckinnon is responsible for what’s called the “biggest military computer hack of all time.” He hacked almost 100 American military and NASA servers in 13 months from 2001 to 2002. His goal while hacking NASA was to discover evidence of extraterrestrials.
“A NASA photographic expert said that there was a Building 8 at Johnson Space Center where they regularly airbrushed out images of UFOs from the high-resolution satellite imaging,” he said. “I logged on to NASA and was able to access this department. They had huge, high-resolution images stored in their picture files. They had filtered and unfiltered, or processed and unprocessed, files.”
12. John McAfee
The 2016 Presidential Candidate, John McAfee, had a run-in with authorities who he claims set him up for murder. He hacked every major computer of Belize government bureaucracies to prove his innocence. He found evidence that implicated officials in corruption, laundering, drug running and murder. He organized his own escape out of Belize to avoid arrest. He recently posted on social media he got into a shootout with police, though this was a joke.
Featured image from YouTube/The Guardian.