Hacktivism is the act of gaining access to a website or a computer networks with the aim of finding some information which can convey political or social message (Warren, & Keneally. 2012). This is done on the basis of the fact that such websites or computer networks may hide information about which certain people have a right to. but the information id hidden from them. It should be understood that hacktivism primarily and wholesomely targets social and political message but n hacktivist can turn into a malicious hacker if their intention is to still private information. Notably hacktivism may be disruptive to highlight political or social causes. Activities involved in hacktivism may include website parodies, website defacement, information theft, denial-of-service attacks (DoS), redirects, virtual sabotage and virtual sit-ins (Tambini, 2013). This assignment seeks to clearly explain hacktivism technology and explain what is the ethical/political/legal issue they raise, present the different positions one might take on the issue, and the arguments one might use to support these positions, along with relevant objections, and finally provide a personal opinion/analysis of the issue.
The main motivating factor of a hacktivists is the active desire to cripple a politically founded system like government control and censorship of electronic and web technologies and their subjects (Park, 2013). Originally, hacktivism was designed to help explain how electronic based actions can elicit social-political change by means of blending computer program with expertise of critical thinking. From the resent past to part of the present generation, it is considered a form of political activism, based on website and computer network hacking skills. It has ow evolved to not only aim and government controlled system by also powerful business-based institution both public and private. This is how hacktivism is employed by those who are against the stringent copyright regulations, repressive legislation, regulatory injustices, and those concerned with preventing controlled electronic information (Sorell, & Landman, 2006). As much as the original claims of activism emphasized the central focus on driving and accelerating social change, currently hacktivism involves both active and passive acts, some of which may be violets or non-violent. In the event that an act of hacktivism is violent, it is considered as cyberterrorism.
The subject of hacktivism has no direct endorsement in the eye of an ethics subscriber. Firstly, there is the question of whose interest is honestly represented and whether the person or people whose interest is represented endorse the hacktivism just before that is done. Secondly there is the question of accountability. It is never clear whether the hacktivists are accountable to anyone at the end of the day. This is because the identity of the real hacktivist or cyber personas is never known. Thirdly there is the question of ethicality of hacktivism because it has the potential of website parodies, website defacement, information theft, denial-of-service attacks (DoS), redirects, virtual sabotage and virtual sit-ins (Tambini, 2013). Most of these activities are harmful to any website of computer network on which they may be executed. At the inception and through to significant development, hacktivism was confined to government systems and website of powerful commercial ventures but at the present time, hacktivism has penetrated to social media such as Facebook, twitter, telegram and the like. It has become a common phenomenon to hear people complaining how their Facebook account have been hacked. Hacktivism has thus evolved and it may no longer be entirely considered for any political activism or good of the society at large but rather individual’s ways of infringing the right of others (Sorell, 2015). In this way, hacktivism may cease to be legitimate should there be no possible ways of controlling.
The Issues Raised
According to Sorell, (2015), hacktivism is a form of cyberactivism but in most instances it has becomes illegitimate. The reason for this argument is that hacktivism has been characterized with statelessness, elusively, and lawlessness and in most cases has remained anonymous which makes it even more technical to handle. It abuses the rights and freedoms of expression in the sense that it infringes the rights of others and thus the acts are unaccountable. Cyberactivism should primarily imply political mobilization which was initially possible through computers only but currently available through smartphones too. The issues have however been on cyberattacks such as data destruction through viruses (Sifry, 2011).) Consequently, websites or computer networks which have been penetrated by cyberactivists, may suffer defacing and hardware or software disabling respectively. Originally, cyberactivism had protection from human rights because it represented their interest and was a global way of protesting in the events the rights of the people were not respected. In many countries, cyberactivism was protected by the law and the activities were controlled within legal frameworks which defined the scope of the acts, the limits and the thresholds. In fact, in Europe, members of the EU had public cyberactivism which was led by a recognized group of cyber-expertise. The political platform of the cyber-expertise placed the Internet at the service of democracy (Erlingsson and Persson 2011). The Pirate party of the European Parliament was an example of such well frame worked and controlled cyberactivists.
Considering Wikileaks and Anonymous are example of globally known hacktivists which hack and penetrate private websites and extracts secret information which they them leak to the public (Sifry 2011: 171). WikiLeaks particularly uses electronic drop boxes released documents and publish the contents. Although WikiLeaks has faced criticism, some of its works have been applauded for example it leaked information on US and its Military materials. WikiLeaks published a film which revealed that the US military at least at one time wrongly targeted non-combatants in the unfolding, of the war in Iraq. This publication received the protection of human right bodies whose support was based on the Universal Declaration of the Human Rights. Consequently, the works of WikiLeaks has been considered to improve transparency which is believed to create a better society for the co-existence of the human race.
Nevertheless, it is important, to appreciate that not all leaks of Wikileaks are from Wikileaks. Some of the information leaked may come from other sources. For example, the concern of the internal security emails from American security intelligence company otherwise called Stratfor, which hit news headline in the recent past, came to Wikileaks from Anonymous cyberactivist (Sorell, & Landman, 2006). Although Wikileaks may be considered to have been innocent in the case, it committed an offense by publishing information which contained personal emails which is against articles 12 of UDHR. Ethically, publishing personal emails which does cause arm to an individual organization of person is not corrects. It becomes even worse when such publication is representing no public interest. In such instances, Wikileaks misused the protection they may get from Human Rights but no action was taken against it. This jeopardizes the rights of privacy to such individual whose personal email might have been published. Unfortunately, Wikileaks hardly leaks the name of some of the people behind the work they do. A s noted by Sorell, (2015), only Julian Assange is known, the rest are not known and thus concern arise as to why the identity of the employees should be hidden. The number of the people involved in the works they publish, their ability to handle the information they publish and neither the strategies they use secure the accuracy of their claims are specified. It is thus justifiable to question the credibility of the sources of information used by Wikileaks.
Another concern of weight on hacktivism in the impacts it can have on the information on a website. With the improved possibility of hiding identity of hackers, cyber security has become very essential. Some of the most essential information included military information, of finance information. If for example, hacktivists with hidden identity should be able to access websites of a military department of a State at war with another State, information on preparation, combat strategy, security intelligence and technology may be pirated by the enemy. The enemy may thus develop smarter strategies and security intelligence and technology so that their opponents can hardly overcome the battle. This explains why some countries employ State of the art and high end technologies of protecting their military information as much as possible. US for examples have classified their classified information into three namely, confidential, secret, and top secret. All the officials working with the military and National Security Agency need Special Access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) or Special Access Program (SAP) to get even the least access to information (U.S. Department of State, 2008). If therefore hackers should be able to access information by whichever means, it any poses a grave security threat to the whole of US. This explains why not all the details of military and security are known to any one individual and neither protected by one particular system.
I think there should be better frameworks of handling hacktivism. Many websites have suffered defacing as a result of website parodies, website defacement, information theft. Consequently, they have faced challenges with managing their private information. Sometimes such management involves additional cost of information protection. I cannot say hacktivism is entirely unethical and evil and neither do I endorse hacktivism. There are websites whose private acts should be uncovered. For example, if there should be a hacktivism launched to secretly monitor the secrets plans and acts of the outlawed groups such as Al-Shabaab or Al-Qaida, then it should be supported by all means. This is because such groups do not represent the interest of any socially acceptable groups of people. State of the art and high end technologies should be used to establish the secrets of such outlawed groups of self-motivation. At the same time, I think a solution to those who hack websites or social networks with the intentions to embarrass, to steal, information with ill motives, to disable an organizations software or hardware, or to pirate information.
Hacktivism has both the bad and the good side. It can be used to discover secrets of destruction of exploitation of an organization of individuals while at the same time it can pose a great threat to privacy, security and rights to protection of private information. Every person has a right to information and a right to privacy protection, whether such individual represent organization or their own interest. Primarily, hacktivism should be aimed at representing the interest of the public foe a socio-political agenda. However, technological advancement has created room for unethical hackers who have used the technology of political gains, financial gains or just for defaming others. Wikileaks is an example of an organization which has practiced hacktivism with the protection of Human Rights but still have failed to meet international requirements. The pieces of information have thus often failed the test of credibility. That notwithstanding, the identity of hacktivists is not a compulsory requirement because some of the information published by hacktivists are top secret information. Overall, a control system would do justice but how is the big question.
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