Hacking and Politics – Can Hackers Change World Politics?
Researching through Science and Technology Studies STS along with application of the social movement theory, present literature has tried to examine the relationship between hacking and politics. Most authors only present questions without proposing any answers. Most authors resist equating political activism with hacking. Hacking is unique, especially when considering Gabriella Cleman’s phrase “the political agnosticism of hackers” . This mainly emerges from the traditional engineering culture, yet hackers have established a bottom-up, resist-the-power debate for the conformist, apolitical side of the equation, what can be marked as “apolitical politics”, thus, further catalyzing the paradox. This is also the reason why some hackers’ assertion that “they are doing it, just for the thrill of it” is unsatisfactory when this claim is evaluated by scholars.
The debate created via the apolitical politics notion has been discussed in details through Gabriella Coleman’s book “Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous”. Coleman followed “Anonymous”, one of the world’s most mysterious and notorious group of hackers, for almost five years. The book delves into the political and the apolitical sides of “Anonymous” who started out by a group of trolls who met on the not so popular online forum “4chan”. Although the group members never intended to engage in politics, later on, their prejudice towards free speech tempted them to aim their attacks at political targets. The reactions ignited by Anonymous’ earlier cyberattacks, fueled more serious involvement in the political scene.
The politics of hacking has also been discussed in Christina Dunbar-Hester’s book titled “Low Power to the People: Pirates, Protest and Politics in FM Radio Activism” which represented a study of a group of FM radio activists known as “Prometheus”. Prometheus were a group of old school radio activists who came into contact with a group of hackers due to their interest in communication technologies. Promoetheus were immersed in anti-globalization political rallies in the late 1990s. Dunbar-Hester, via studying Prometheus, connected traditional politics, targeting state policies, with small-p politics and building of local radio transmitters.
Throughout her 2013 book “In Network Peripheries: Technological Futures and the Myth of Digital Universalism”, Anita Say considers hacking from a “sideline” view, without actually engaging with those marked as “hackers”. The book discussed one of the incidents that involved an intersection between politics and technological advances and/or hacking. In 2003, Peru placed a legal proposal that put the country in the centre of attention of global free software advocacy. The preposition mandated the use of free software, rather than commercial software, in public administration. This was aggressively opposed by Microsoft, and the US ambassador stated that the proposal had put Peru’s national security in jeopardy. This led to mass mobilization of free software developers and activists all across South America. Despite the fact that the proposal was never applied, the Peruvian initiative attracted global attention and Microsoft was in a defensive position again. This data denote that apart from its activist and countercultural outlook, the hacker culture has stemmed from an engineering culture and from the computer industry.
The US government accused Russian intelligence of hacking and interfering in the 2016’s presidential elections. This is considered the climax of influence of hacking on global politics during the past few years. Cybersecurity firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, SecureWorks, Fidelis Cybersecurity and ThreatConnect, announced that the email leaks of 2016’s US presidential elections were part of a chain of cyberattacks launched by two Russian intelligence groups; Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, on the DNC. These groups are also known as APT29 and APT28 respectively. The threat analysis report published by SecureWork pinpointed other groups incriminated in the attacks including Sednit, Sofacy and Pawn Storm which are also labeled as Threat Group4127(TG-4127). ThreatConnect also proved that the DC Leaks project was fully masterminded by the Russian intelligence, in a manner that matched the attack pattern of the hacker group Fancy Bear. SecureWorks analysis stated that the hacker groups operated on behalf of the Russian government.
Hacking has been increasingly influencing the world’s politics during the past few years and the recent incrimination of Russian intelligence manipulation of the US presidential elections represents the tip of the iceberg. Whether or not this incident can entirely reshape the current global political model, hacking is definitely one of the most powerful weapons of future’s warfare.