An attack on Mynanmar’s internet ahead of Sunday’s elections, the first in the country’s political history for 20 years, represents the dark side of ‘hacktivism’, hacking for political intent.
Harnessing tools traditionally used to carry out cyber crime as a means for executing politically motivated cyber attacks opens new doors for political campaigners. Defacement of websites, denial of service attacks and the exploitation of government security flaws have become increasingly popular as political activists and disgruntled groups take to cyberspace rather than the streets to air their views and cause disruption.
Hacks like Cash Gordon seemed mischeveous, a little bit cheeky. But in actual fact, the rise of this trend also the opens doors to more sinister campaigns, with the potential to cause real damage or destruction.
The most notable thing about the reported attack in Mynamar is that it’s not an act of ‘hactivism’ to broadcast a message and force people to listen. Instead, it aims to prevent freedom of speech and silence a country in the lead up to a significant moment in its political history.
The web is an outstanding and powerful tool, but when control slips into the wrong hands, the potential implications can be frightening. We see this with the rise of attacks such as Stuxnet which directly threaten real-world infrastructure and groups like the Iranian Cyber Army making malicious online tools such as botnets readily available to anyone that’s willing to pay for them.
With governments around the world grappling to come to terms with the reality of cyber warefare as it is, this attack represents the pressing need for a new take on our approach to security. With hacker techniques at the most sophisticated they have ever been, simply waiting to find out if something is ‘bad’ before it enters the network no longer cuts the mustard. Intelligence is crucial in the battle to protect government and corporate infrastructures from the work of cyber criminals and ‘hacktivists’.