Hacktivism is the act of hacking, misusing or breaking into a computer system or network for socially or politically motivated reasons.

The hackers engage in disruptive or damaging activity in an attempt to expose fraud, wrongdoing, corporate greed, draw attention to human rights violations and other social injustices. Anonymous, LulzSec and Wikileaks are among those hacktivist groups who have carried out high profile attacks.

Their motivations are usually spurred on by the notion that they have to right a “wrong” or make a statement to highlight these injustices. Other motivations include revenge, teaching an organization a lesson or completely undermining an entire organization or corporation.

How does hacktivism work?

Below is a list of purposes or objectives hacktivism seeks to achieve:

  • Getting past censorship applied by the government
  • Using social media to advocate for human rights and help those who are censored.
  • Attacking and bringing down government websites
  • Promoting democracy and freedom of speech
  • Supporting local and civilian uprisings
  • Undermining the power of a corporation or government
  • Assisting illegal immigrants in crossing borders securely
  • Protesting war crimes and stopping terrorism financing
  • Speaking out against capitalism

Types of hacktivism attacks

There are various methods of attacks that hacktivists use including:

DoS and DDoS attacks

Prevents users from accessing target’s websites, devices and networks. This is done by flooding systems, overwhelming resources and disrupting operations.


This is a method of gathering information, through social engineering or hacking, about an organization or individual to make publicly available. This information is usually sensitive and used in extortion efforts.

Leaking information

When negative information is leaked, news outlets are quick to report on it. This enables the movement to gain power, recognition and respect.


This allows internet users to add a geotag to YouTube videos to display the location the video was shot on Google Maps and Google Earth. This is used to highlight the location of political prisoners and human rights activists.


This software enables users to find copies of documents that would otherwise require a payment to the United States Federal Court for access. Hacktivists provide this service for free and remove the barrier they believe should never have been there in the first place.

Anonymous blogs

By blogging anonymously, it allows the blogger to speak on the issue they wish to whilst having their identity remain a secret, making them impossible to target.

Website mirroring

If a website is censored, hacktivists will copy the content of the site and publish it under a different URL, making its contents public.

Website defacement

During this type of attack, unauthorized individuals infiltrate a website and alter the content to contain statements, profanity or other information that would damage the reputation of the website’s owners.