Hacktivism Definition

KZero Staff
Jul 27, 2023

What is Hacktivism?

Hacktivism is the use of cyberattacks and hacking to advance political, ethical, or social causes. The term is a portmanteau of “hacking” and activism”.

Many types of cyberattacks are financially motivated or designed to advance the goals of a nation-state by stealing data or causing disruption. Hacktivism is intended to draw attention to a particular cause or to take action against political or social opponents.

What Defines Hacktivism?

Hacktivism is a particular type of cyberattack. Some of the defining features of hacktivism include:

  • Motivation: Hacktivism’s motivation is to advance a social, political, or ideological cause. Hacktivism may be intended to protest, raise awareness of an issue, or take vigilante action against a perceived wrongdoer.
  • Cyber Tactics: Hacktivists use cyberattacks to advance their goals. For example, common hacktivist techniques include distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, defacing websites, or leaking sensitive information about ideological opponents.
  • High Visibility: Many cyber threat actors attempt to be subtle and hide their attacks to maximize how much money or data they can steal before they are caught. Hacktivists perform their attacks with the intent of being noticed and having their attacks attributed to them.

Common Hacktivist Techniques

The techniques and types of cyberattacks used by hacktivists can differ from those of other types of cybercriminal groups. Some of the most common techniques used by hacktivists include:

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): A DDoS attack involves many computers flooding a target with more data than it can handle. This can advance hacktivists’ goals by making a website unavailable to its users.
  • Website Defacement: Hacktivists may gain control over and deface the content of the websites of their ideological adversaries. This could be used to harm their brand image or advance awareness of the hacktivist’s cause.
  • Data Leaks: Hacktivists may collect and reveal sensitive information about their targets. For example, some hacktivist groups are known for doxxing individuals who they believe have performed illegal or unethical actions.

Major Hacktivist Examples

Many different individuals and groups have engaged in hacktivist activities. Some examples of famous hacktivists include:

  • Anonymous: Anonymous is a group of loosely affiliated hacktivists. They perform cyberattacks designed to support various causes.
  • WikiLeaks: Wikileaks is a website that specializes in hacktivist data breaches. The site publishes information provided to it by various sources.

Law and Ethics

The legality and ethical nature of hacktivism is difficult to determine. Some supporters of the practice claim that it is a form of free speech which is protected by law.

However, many of the methods and techniques used by hacktivists are illegal. This causes others to consider it a form of cybercrime,


Hacktivism is a legally and ethically complicated form of activism. Hacktivists use various forms of cyberattacks — such as DDoS, data breaches, and website defacement — to advance their cause and take action against their opponents. These attacks may be designed to cause disruption to these adversaries or reveal information that would expose perceived wrongdoers to legal action or raise public awareness of their illegal or unethical activities.

KZero Staff

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