Hacktivists aim their cyber attacks strategically, motivated by ethical, political or ideological reasons. Online activists seek to leak information or carry out attacks which can help their cause.
The most famous hacktivist group is certainly Anonymous, best known for their cyber attacks in 2011. The group has hacked websites, Twitter accounts, and file-sharing sites. Their actions have always had a political or ethical motivation, from supporting gay rights and unions to exposing human rights breaches. Releasing shocking or compromising information to the public, shutting down websites, crashing servers, and highjacking social media accounts would create a strong media reaction and often gained the group much support from the public for publishing ‘the truth’. Anonymous has targeted high-profile groups and organisations such as the U.S Department of Justice and the Chinese government. Clearly unfazed by large corporations and the power they hold, Anonymous became a real threat to governments and companies alike.
Since 2015, Anonymous attacks decreased significantly. However, a resurgence in hacktivist attacks has begun, with some former-Anonymous members recouping to support the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Similarly, other hacktivists hacked into a right-wing social network, Parler, to publish videos of those breaking into the US Capitol building in the 2021 riots. It is suggested that hacktivists continually pursue antiracist and anti fascist politics through their attacks.
While hacktivists are not necessarily motivated by money, and view their motives as important and helpful to their causes, the criminal element of hacking, fraud and theft is still unlawful. However altruistic a group perceives their reasons for, or the support a group receives, their attack is still an attack, and is seen as this in the eyes of the law.