Hacktivists have roots in the hacker’s culture. It is an up and coming movement where bad-actors use hacking as a method to promote a group’s political agenda. The term originated in a forum called “The Cult of the Dead Cow”. Hacktivism as the root of hacktivist can also border on acts of cyberterrorism for the effect of social change. Many hacktivist groups exist, however, one of the more well-known hacktivist groups is the group known as “Anonymous.”
Now that you know a little knowledge and background on hacktivists and hacktivism, let’s explore another case study.
Sandy was a friend of Jamie’s from Dr. Wang’s security lab course and was always a heavy advocate for different social causes around campus. He seemed to always be angry about something. He was secretly taking the course for two reasons: to learn different hacking and exploitation methods and to recruit other students during class for his cause. Sandy learned the exploitation techniques and methods very quickly. He gathered other students in the class that shared his beliefs and were quick studies as well. He and students that he had recruited often met directly after class on campus. Sandy was essentially starting his own hacktivist organization and encampment right there on campus.
He was always in tune with the latest social and local news of the day. He personally did not like the increase in reports of police brutality across the nation. Sandy did not like any of the potential 2016 presidential candidates, and he did not like how refugees were being treated in different nations and places abroad. Sandy organized the best and the brightest hackers that he could, and they happened to be from Dr. Wang’s class. Sandy used the threat model and operandi of the well-known hacktivist group known as “Anonymous.” Therefore, he named his first hacking operation “OpRefNation.” He targeted different nations’ embassies and department offices that handled refugee crises overseas. Sandy was able to Google and social engineer various IPs from the different embassies located inside of the United States. He started his various recon efforts to determine their operating systems and servers. Sandy and his team were soon ready to make their first strike.
“OpRefNation,” was soon on its way to full execution. He loaded the IPs into the Metasploit and Armitage penetration testing tools and launched a very orchestrated Denial of Service attack which is also known as a DDOS attack against the targeted IPs. Metasploit and Armitage had embedded system tools such as “Nessus” and “nmap” to scan various systems to determine the victims’ operating systems, IP networks and user directories.
The reconnaissance assisted the new hacktivist team in determining whether any types of vulnerabilities could be exploited by known zero-day exploits. One of the vulnerabilities allowed Sandy and his team to conduct a long DDOS campaign by SYN Flood attack. The SYN flood attack is usually conducted during the network connection of various network systems. It’s the initial handshake process for synching the network packets for communication across the LAN.
Soon the embassy was inundated. Its network servers were not able to handle all of the packets coming in and crashed all of the embassy’s system servers. “OpRefNation” was a success! Sandy and his team immediately announced the attack so that their hacktivist group could immediately take credit for the successful DDOS attack.
Case Study IV Questions:
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- How did Sandy gain his cyber hacking skills?
- What is a hacktivist?
- What type of tools did Sandy and his team use to carry out the attack?
- What type of attack was conducted?
- How does this particular attack work?
- What were some of the social issues that attributed to Sandy’s hacktivist motivation in the first place?