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Cyber vigilantism

Cyber vigilantism

Cyber vigilantism definition

Cyber vigilantism refers to the actions of individuals or groups to combat and expose perceived online wrongdoing or cybercrimes outside the traditional legal system. For example, investigate, track, and publicly expose cybercriminals or unethical activities of people, companies, and countries.

See also: hacktivism

How does cyber vigilantism work?

  • Information gathering. Since it often includes high-value targets, cybercriminals need to identify weaknesses and consider all angles of attack.
  • Online shaming. A common technique includes shaming the target by sharing screenshots and videos of their wrongdoing.
  • Doxxing. Criminals often reveal personal details about individuals, such as their addresses and phone numbers.
  • DDoS attacks. In order to disrupt the businesses, vigilanties may organize Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Examples of cyber vigilantism

The hacktivist group Anonymous includes the most popular examples of cyber vigilantism. For example, in 2011 the group launched a campaign against dark web sites suspected of distributing sensitive content involving minors. The campaign was called Operation Darknet. The group has also performed multiple cyberattacks against Russia after their invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Another example of cyber vigilantism involved an attack against Sony Pictures. While the attack most likely was the result of an upcoming movie depicting the assassination of the North Korean leader, some sources suggest it could’ve been motivated by alleged unethical business practices of the company.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security