Technically Speaking

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Hacktivism: What It is and How You Can Avoid Becoming a Target

New years are new beginnings. In our personal lives, that usually means rethinking and recommitting to goals like physical fitness, financial prosperity, and personal betterment in the form of more education or smarter family decisions. In business, the new year means taking a look at things like budgets, expansion goals, and IT security. According to leading security experts, one of the biggest threats to watch out for in 2016 will be hacktivism. Are you prepared?

Defining Hacktivism

As you review your personal and business goals for the new year, don’t forget to have a plan in place to protect your IT environment from this year’s top threats.

Hacktivism is using the techniques and tactics of hackers and applying those to the act of promoting or defending activist causes. A large portion of hacktivism is done on an individual basis or through the efforts of a group of hackers united for a cause. Increasingly, however, hacktivists are either sponsored by or are dedicated to supporting national governments. Both China and North Korea have long been suspected of funding and supporting hackers who attack the financial, business, and government interests of nations they consider to be enemies. Examples of some of the most prominent and dangerous hactivists include Anonymous, Syrian Electronic Army (abbreviated SEA), Chaos Computer Club (CCC), and Tarh Andishan.

Avoiding Hacktivism

While hits on businesses by hacktivists are usually perceived by the public as being ‘out of the blue’, this is rarely the case. Most of the time, hackers are quite outspoken about publicizing their targets, as well as the reasons behind their decision to target that organization. Businesses and agencies can often avoid the event by conducting generally ethical business practices.

For example, some hacktivists are aggressively defensive of minorities, such as certain ethnic groups or gays. They target businesses that have a record of not having fair hiring and promotional practices. Organizations can also become targets if they are perceived to be biased against certain religious groups, or when they engage in practices that are not healthy for the environment or local populations.

Hactivists usually take to the blogs and social media before launching an attack. Monitoring social media for threats or warnings can help businesses determine when a group has them in their sights, and it is possible to stave off an impending attack by reaching out with an olive branch to prove the business is serious about mending their ways.

Confronting Hacktivism

Protecting the environment, correcting real or perceived racial injustices, and attempting to promote their nation’s political, social, and economic agendas are prime motivators for hacktivism.

Sometimes, however, the business is not doing whatever evil thing the hactivists think they are. Or, the nature of their business prevents them from doing differently. For example, if a hacktivist is angry at capitalism, banks and stock brokerage firms can’t just shut their doors. Similarly, energy companies and transportation businesses can’t just stop using fossil fuels. To prevent attacks that can’t be avoided, organizations have to have protective measures in place.

The same basic security measures that help stop identity theft, cyber espionage, and other attacks are just as effective against hacktivists. Keep firmware, firewalls, and antivirus software up to date. Regularly update software systems and operating systems. Back up regularly and thoroughly. Also, move any data that is mission critical or particularly sensitive to the cloud. Cloud service providers are cyber security professionals because their entire business depends on keeping customers’ data secure.

When you’re ready to secure your sensitive information in the cloud, turn to Bigstep’s Full Metal Cloud for superior performance as well as enhanced security. The Bigstep solution isn’t just for cloud storage, you can also conduct powerful data analytics right from the Bigstep platform. Learn more about us and our products today.

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