This publication aims to define what cyber terrorism actually is, giving the definition governments use. They go on to say how the role of the Internet has evolved in relation to terrorist groups. While it used to be used as a planning, coordinating and recruitment tool (and still is), now terrorist groups can use it to strike at targets, unseen from the virtual world. In this case, it’s considered cyber terrorism because known terrorist organizations are conducting the attacks, and so, it’s a matter of motivation that leads to this classification.
This article describes what it calls “cyber activism attacks”. They describe it as “digital disobedience. Hacking for a cause”. The targets are often local and state governments, police stations, banks, you know, establishments of “The Man”. And this is universal, regardless of the country targeted. Some view these hacktivists has harmless, and their activities as another form of protest, while others say their activities are highly disruptive, and a cyber form of criminal trespassing. One of the most well known hacktivist groups is Anonymous, who describes themselves as a “relatively small vigilante cyber group” that has “expanded and transformed into a continuation of the Civil-Rights movement.” Again, it’s a matter of motivation.
Related specifically to my area of interest, I found an article from a little over a month ago, talking about an Iranian cyber attack on Israel, launched by a governmental funded group called OILRIG. It was foiled when cyber activists from the hacker group ShadowBroker exposed the attack. This attack would have happened during the annual cyber attack on Israel by Anonymous, known as #OpIsrael. Interestingly enough, the hacktivists who indicated that they were interested in taking part in the Op were themselves hacked by cyber terrorists.
Before reading these articles, I had a pretty good idea of the difference between cyber terrorism and cyber activism. These articles only served to confirm and broaden my understanding of it. It’s all a matter of perspective, and motivation. Hacktivists and cyber terrorists often do the exact same things on the Internet, conduct the exact same types of attacks for the exact same results. It’s the “why” that is important. Cyber terrorists may be advancing their own political agenda (or that of the government funding them) while cyber activists are fighting for their rights, or the rights of others, taking on what they see as an oppressive regime/government. In this sense, cyber activists would be radicals, through and through, protesting and resisting, and helping others to protest and resist. And while some cyber terrorist groups might be radicals right now, their motivations, or the motivations of those funding them, could be seen as political realism. That’s another important note, I haven’t found any instance of hacktivists being funded by the government, while cyber terrorists seem to be government or state sponsored agencies.