Article posted: Jan 14, 2016
By Joakim Thorén, CEO
Softpedia recently reported that Anonymous, a group of experienced hackers, shut down several Saudi government websites after a slew of recent politically-motivated executions of Saudi political prisoners. This is not the first time Anonymous has attacked a government group to protest its policies. The Anonymous group is credited with affecting several Canadian government websites last June in protest of Canadian privacy laws.
It seems that Anonymous is growing in power. In 2012, Time Magazine credited the group as being one of the most 100 influential "people" in the world. Every few months new cybersecurity attacks from Anonymous are reported widely and few arrests have been made to stop them. Groups like Anonymous gather around the ideal of hacktivism" and show no signs of slowing down in 2016.
According to Wikipedia, "Hacktivism" is a controversial term with several meanings. The word was coined to characterize electronic direct action as working toward social change by combining programming skills with critical thinking. But just as hack can sometimes mean cyber crime, hacktivism can be used to mean activism that is malicious, destructive, and undermining the security of the Internet as a technical, economical or political platform.
The later definition seems to be more prevalent these days as protesters are masking as cybercriminals to further their causes. These cybercriminals or hacktivists are getting more sophisticated in their attacks. In the recent Saudi government attacks, a series of DDoS attacks crippled several Saudi government portals and were able to shut them down for more than a day, according to Softpedia. The websites in question were high-security portals such as the Saudi Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defense, the Royal Air Force and the Saudi Press Association.
Organizations must pull out all the stops to secure their websites against any and all attacks. Whether its deploying the latest anti-phishing software or deploying multi-factor ID to prevent insider threats, companies need to augment their security in 2016 against all hacktivist threats. As the US elections take center stage later this year, it will be interesting to see if "hacktivists" aim to take down various political candidates.