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Crime Your Rights Online

Hacktivism: Civil Disobedience Or Cyber Crime? 243

An anonymous reader writes "You don't necessarily have to a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law. ProPublica breaks down acts of 'hacktivism' to see what is considered criminal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It points out that both Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning were charged under the CFAA. Quoting: 'A DDoS attack can be charged as a crime under the CFAA, as it “causes damage” and can violate a web site’s terms of service. The owner of the site could also file a civil suit citing the CFAA, if they can prove a temporary server overload resulted in monetary losses. ... The charges for doxing depend on how the information was accessed, and the nature of published information. Simply publishing publicly available information, such as phone numbers found in a Google search, would probably not be charged under the CFAA. But hacking into private computers, or even spreading the information from a hack, could lead to charges under the CFAA.'"
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Hacktivism: Civil Disobedience Or Cyber Crime?

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  • by g0bshiTe ( 596213 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:35PM (#42628161)
    Actually tell that to the city when they decide it's time to repave the road in front of your business essentially ddos'ing you IRL.
  • by lattyware ( 934246 ) <> on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:35PM (#42628175) Homepage Journal
    I hate how hard this concept appears to be for so many people - it's so damn obvious, why does the fact it's online make a damn bit of difference? Likewise, if I send a communication to someone, the government shouldn't be able to start looking at it. It's true for post, so why do so many governments keep trying to pretend it shouldn't be so for email?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:37PM (#42628205)

    Easy answer:

    To hactivists, civil disobedience.
    To law enforcement, cyber crime.
    To people who respect the English language, an abomination.

    And never shall the three change their opinions.

    There, that was easy. Next?

  • Dr. McCoy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yawmite ( 447399 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:56PM (#42628415)

    How can you get a permit to do an illegal thing? - Dr. McCoy. Star Trek III.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:02PM (#42628489) Journal

    Oh, we remember. It's the authorities who need to remember that sometimes they are on the wrong side of history.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:05PM (#42628527)

    And you old folks seem to forget that they weren't charged with felonies, nor where they denied the right to preach/protest/pursue their career as a result of their protest. Thankfully the half-assed hippy movement in the 60's wised up the political elements to make non-violent demonstration a life ruining crime.

    But thanks for the history lesson, pops. Always nice to hear from those who destroyed our nation get up on their soap box...

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:27PM (#42628747) Journal

    Sure, but they don't know me from a customer until I wait in line and waste their resources. Once I say "marriage equality" the manager can ask me to leave and I will, but it's too late then.

  • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:38PM (#42628879) Homepage

    Well, actually Thoreau's idea when he coined the term "civil disobedience" was to simply disobey such a law. It was Gandhi who noticed the publicity value of disobeying unjust laws and watching the authorities dish out beat-downs to enforce it.

    What's also particularly interesting is that many acts widely seen as civil disobedience were acts that weren't legitimately against the law in the first place. For instance, Martin Luther King's crime in Birmingham was that he walked down a sidewalk in the front of a group of people singing songs (specifically protected by the First Amendment), following traffic laws, towards City Hall. He was arrested only because the local police chief had gotten a court order that said that Martin Luther King wasn't allowed to lead or participate in any act of protest in Birmingham, which wasn't a legitimate order for the court to give but gave the police the excuse they needed.

    Also notable is that not all law-breaking that various political groups engage in is (in my view) civil disobedience. Some left-wing groups, for instance, like to commit crimes like trespassing in order to try to draw attention to a completely unrelated injustice. It usually doesn't work, because (a) the authorities don't do anything stupid like beat them up, (b) they pick targets that don't match what they're trying to protest, (c) their criminal acts don't do anything that would right the injustice, and (d) they don't do it in a way that attracts media attention.

    Also relevant is that completely illegitimate and illegal use of force towards protesters now gets significant support from people who really should know better. For instance, the various cases of police pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters for the heinous crime of walking down a sidewalk holding signs actually had a lot of people saying how glad they were that the cops were doing that.

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @05:14PM (#42629257)

    Also, say you did a DOS on a company, Chances are they are hosting their services at some data center who will be hosting for other organizations as well.

    At my Previous Job, About 1000 Practices lost access to their Electronic Medical Records for a few minutes (as we switched to an other data center) because our primary data center main network router got killed because they were also hosting some Bank that those hackers didn't like.
    Yes you could tout that we could have done a better job at our fail-over method, but that is like blaming an innocent bystanders for getting shot because they didn't think to put on a bullet proof vest that day.

    Expanding you analogy it would be like protesters also blocking entrance to a neighboring business that has nothing to do with the protest.

    Hacktivism is just stupid. For one it could have unintended side effects secondly due to its anonymous nature you are not getting your point across, besides I don't like you.

  • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @05:42PM (#42629489) Journal

    If you break the law you are committing a crime, this includes hiding Jews in Nazi Germany or smuggling slaves out of the Antebellum South via the Underground Railway. Yes, breaking bad laws still make you a criminal. I've read commentary saying Aaron Swartz was no Robin Hood, but Robin Hood was considered an extremely vile criminal by law enforcement in his day, if the legend is to be believed.

    Civil Disobedience is one way of disobeying unjust laws. It's where you show open, public contempt for a bad law in the hope that people will see how bad it is. However, it's not the only form of legitimate resistance to unjust laws. In a police state, resisting bad laws anonymously might be the only viable way to protest them. Sometimes that can be civil disobedience too (see "'Repent Harlequin' said the Tick-Tock Man," for a fictional example or some of the plots against Hitler for real life examples).

    Sometimes the purpose of disobeying an unjust law isn't a political protest, but to reduce the harm caused by the law. People who hid Jews under Nazi regimes had no illusions that Der Fuehrer was going to change his mind, they just wanted those particular Jews to be able to avoid being murdered by the State.

    So, some forms of "Hactivism" are public disobedience, some are Anonymous, and some are based on the concept of harm reduction. I'm not sure which version Aaron Swartz was going for, but I don't think it was public disobedience. Some of the rationale I've read from him suggests it was more in the "harm reduction" category, allowing scholars who were being discriminated against in 3rd world countries access to 1st world research.

    I don't think it was worth dying over, though his public suicide does seem to have ended up as a particularly effective form of public disobedience. (Still, it's not going to have much impact on hiding research behind pay-walls. More likely it will end up working against our current draconian computer crime laws, if anything, which was not the actual issue Aaron Swartz was originally trying to address. This is what people are missing, he didn't "win" on the original political issue he was trying to fight though it does seem like JSTOR has given him a partial victory. Rather, the prosecution was so harsh and out of proportion is opened up a whole new set of civil liberty issues related to the case.)

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:32PM (#42629967) Journal

    The FBI informed the banks that over 90% of stated income loans were fraudulent. In response, the banks increased the number of stated income loans they made. That is racketeering.

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson