LEA Working Group Insights on Hacktivism
A principal outcome of the CC-DRIVER project will be the development of tools and training materials for law enforcement agencies (LEAs) enhancing their capabilities to more effectively investigate, mitigate and prevent cybercriminal activities. Cybercrime awareness tools will provide up-to-date intelligence on trends and tactics in cybersecurity, while investigation tools will improve data mining and system scanning capabilities. As part of our co-design approach, LEAs are directly involved in the development and validation of these tools to ensure high-quality results and to facilitate the end-user acceptance and uptake.
As part of our focus on developing tools for and with LEAs, consortium partner Valencia Local Police has set up the CC-DRIVER Working Groups of LEAs whose objective is to exchange experiences and knowledge among EU LEAs about human and societal aspects of cybersecurity problems and their remedies, as well as to share valuable information on relevant tools and technological matters.
In its first edition, organised on Monday 26 October 2020, taking advantage of the European Cybersecurity Month, 9 LEAs from 6 different countries have discussed hacktivism and civil disobedience on the Internet. Hacktivism has many forms, but typically involves the use of legal and illegal computer-based techniques and digital tools for pursuing political or social ends. Here are some key points that have been summarised from the first meeting of the LEA Working Group:
In the last decade there have been hacktivist activities with different severity and purpose in Europe. For instance, in Spain #OPCatalonia was politically driven and had low severity, and 60% of the cyberattacks were done by SQL injection. In Finland, Anonymous leaked some data in 2011, mostly done by youngsters with low technical skills. It was not politically driven, but rather to expose the cyber security situation in the country. In Portugal, the hacktivist activity has had medium severity, with a pending case in court against the 32 identified hackers who are aged between 17 years and 41 years. They used web defacing and SQL injections, and it was not politically driven. There is also a clear link between right-wing conspiracy theory groups and hacktivism in the United States, particularly QAnon, some signs indicate that this trend is starting to be embraced in Europe too.
Among the prevention and deterrence activities carried out, besides public and school campaigns, Portugal is using infiltrated agents to guide hacktivists to peaceful ways of cyber usage. On the other hand, there is a need to make them aware of the consequences, that their often criminal activities can land them in jail. Besides, it is necessary to collaborate with academics researching children and young people, as they are natural risk takers, especially boys. This is why CC-DRIVER has a specific focus on researching cyber juvenile delinquency and drivers of cybercriminal activity among young people. LEAs discussed for example research studies where it was shown that hackers usually suffer from dysfunctional home conditions and mental health issues.
Very often, governments and states are the strongest promoters of hacktivism, especially given that governments have the strongest tracking and surveillance methods, several LEAs highlighted. It is worth noting the role countries like for example Russia or North Korea have taken and how quickly things can escalate – even up to cyber warfare. Cyber hacktivism has also been commercially driven and has resulted in losses of more than a billion euro.
These online LEA Working Group meetings will be held on a quarterly basis and will focus on the major cybercrime challenges EU LEAs face, suggest examples of good practices and discuss how CC-DRIVER can contribute to solutions that can address these challenges. The second LEA Working Group conference call will take place in January 2021 and will focus on online grooming. If you are an LEA interested in participating in these virtual meetings, please write to Valencia Local Police at firstname.lastname@example.org.