Hacktivism & Cyberterrorism vs Government Response


Hacktivism is the use of technology or computer system for social or political motivations or to promote a certain agenda. One prominent example of hacktivism was Aaron Swartz who broke into the MITs computer system in 2013 and downloaded thousands of academic journals and articles, later published online as a protest of research being locked behind expensive payments (Basulto, 2013). Cyberterrorism can be defined as intentional violent acts conducted in cyberspace through the use of a computer or network systems to cause damage such as disruption of systems, damage to infrastructure, manipulation with malware, and access to sensitive information (UNODC, n.d.). One example of cyberterrorism occurred in March of 2019 when the power grid in the Western United States was continuously attacked for nearly 10 hours, deeming it as a cybersecurity incident (Sussman, 2019).

The main goal

The main goal of hacktivism is to cause social change by bringing issues to light or making themselves heard, in a relatively peaceful manner. Meanwhile, cyberterrorism is aimed at causing direct harm, having no limits on the impacts of its actions that may lead to economic, infrastructural damage, or even loss of life to drive an ideological agenda behind the cyber-attack. Technology has helped significantly to advance these groups since the majority of modern life occurs either online or on computer systems that can be accessed. Everything is reliant on the systems and processing power of computers and their interconnectivity in cyberspace. Such status quo presents a field of operations for both hacktivists and cyber terrorists which is difficult to defend, offers tremendous control, and results in high profile coverage.

The response of government

Government responses towards both hacktivists and cyber terrorists have been a position of toughness. In this context, it has started significant discussions for society. Americans more often realize the tensions between their privacy and security concerns. People are worried about the security of information both for the public and private sectors. However, offering firms or the government an opportunity to offer such security creates privacy concerns, that the government will now use the capabilities to keep track of its citizens (Maniam, 2016). My personal opinion on the issue is mixed since hacktivism has all the elements of being a subset of cyberterrorism, but I am also sympathetic to some of the objectives that these individuals are trying to achieve.. Without accountability, more often than not hacktivism becomes dangerous and violates stability of society, despite its potentially good intentions.


Basulto, D. (2013). The Washington Post. Web.

Maniam, S. (2016). Web.

Sussman, B. (2019). Web.

UNODC. (2019). Module 14: Hacktivism, terrorism, espionage, disinformation campaigns and warfare in cyberspace. Web.

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