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Mei NELSON - Hacking and Trolling: The Changing Face of Hacktivism in the Disinformation Age

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Hacktivism, commonly known as actions by individuals or groups that using hacking skills to spread a specific message and bring attention to a political or social cause, has risen and then fallen globally in the past five years. In the meantime, hacktivist activities have evolved, with an increase in state-sponsored hacktivism using false hacktivist personas, and the appearance of hacktivists who could also be described as "entrepreneurial geeks." Not all hacktivists break into network systems; some perform troll activities to create online disruptions on social media to accomplish their goals. The recent phenomenon of fandom nationalists turned trolls adds another layer to the many roles of hacktivism.

This talk will discuss the role of hacktivism in information operations through case studies of hacktivist activities from various regions and countries, and provide insight into the structure, organization, motivations, goals, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) of these hacktivist groups. The talk will also analyze how other threat actors utilize hacktivists to conduct information operations. Lastly, the talk will reflect on the future direction of global hacktivism in information operations as geopolitical tensions among major powers increase and nation-states reposition their cyber defense posture.

Hacktivism is evolving in the disinformation age with traditional hacktivist activities of breaking into systems and emerging hacktivist activities of creating online disruptions without breaking into systems. Hacktivist actors are not only non-state actors, but also nation state actors who use false hacktivist personas conducting information operations.

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Mei NELSON - Hacking and Trolling: The Changing Face of Hacktivism in the Disinformation Age

  1. 1. HACKING&TROLLING THECHANGINGFACE OFHACKTIVISMIN THEDISINFORMATION AGE iDefense Threat Intelligence Mei Nelson December 11, 2019
  2. 2. © 2019 Accenture. ACCENTURE SECURITY Accenture Security helps organizations build resilience from the inside out, so they can confidently focus on innovation and growth. Leveraging its global network of cybersecurity labs, deep industry understanding across client value chains and services that span the security lifecycle, Accenture protects organizations’ valuable assets, end-to-end. With services that include strategy and risk management, cyber defense, digital identity, application security and managed security, Accenture enables businesses around the world to defend against known sophisticated threats, and the unknown. Follow us @AccentureSecure on Twitter or visit us at www.accenture.com/security. This document is produced by consultants at Accenture as general guidance. It is not intended to provide specific advice on your circumstances. If you require advice or further details on any matters referred to, please contact your Accenture representative. The opinions, statements, and assessments in this report are solely those of the individual author(s) and do not constitute legal advice, nor do they necessarily reflect the views of Accenture, its subsidiaries, or affiliates. LEGAL NOTICE & DISCLAIMER Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  3. 3. WHO AM I 3 Copyright © 2019 Accenture Security. All rights reserved. Mei Nelson Security Principal Geopolitical and Strategic Intelligence Team iDefense Threat Intelligence Accenture Security Accenture
  4. 4. HACKER – HACKTIVIST – HACKTIVISM Copyright © 2019 Accenture Security. All rights reserved. Using hacking skills to spread a specific message and bring attention to a political or social cause or The use of malicious cyber activities by non-state actors for ideological purposes (iDefense) Hacktivist Hacker + Activist Combines traditional activist tactics with hacking techniques Hacktivism Hacker
  5. 5. 5 HACKTIVISM Decline? Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. The Cult of the Dead Cow - the Dead Cow Died? Source: cDC Source: Google
  6. 6. 6 HACKTIVISM Changing Face? Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Source: Wikimedia
  7. 7. 7 THE CHANGING FACE OF Hacktivism Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Non-state Actors State Actors
  8. 8. 8 THE CHANGING FACE OF Malicious Cyber Activities Breaking into No Breaking into Systems Systems Hacktivism Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  9. 9. HACKTIVISM & THEDISINFORMATION AGE Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  10. 10. Disinformation Propaganda Misinformation 10Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. INFORMATION OPERATIONS THREE TYPES & THREE DIMENSIONS
  11. 11. DISINFORMATION OPERATIONS GOALS: THE “D” WORDS 11 DIVIDE DISCREDIT DISTRACT DENY Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  12. 12. DISINFORMATION OPERATIONS METHODS 12 “WHITE” METHOD Broadcasting one’s message openly through state media “GRAY” METHOD Placing information in other sympathetic media “BLACK” METHOD Using hackers, trolls, and honeypots Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  13. 13. 13 • Flooding the media with multiple versions of a story to confuse the audience • Publicizing scandalous information to discredit a critic or adversary • Distracting world opinion from negative information, by highlighting or even creating some other crisis or scandal • Using inauthentic social media profiles to inflame real- world violence by publicizing rallies of rival groups Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. DISINFORMATION OPERATIONS TACTICS
  14. 14. 14 CYBER-ENABLED INFORMATION OPERATIONS Broadly Any information operations taking place in cyberspace, including in online media and social media Narrowly Information operations leveraging offensive cyber threat activity such as subverting secure system Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  15. 15. 15 CYBER-ENABLED INFORMATION OPERATIONS Hacktivism Non-state actors for ideological purposes State-controlled hacktivism using false personas Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. State-encouraged hacktivism trolling
  16. 16. 16 CASE STUDY: #MACRONLEAKS (PART I) • Disinformation campaign: rumors, fake news, forged documents • Offensive network intrusion: computers of Macron’s campaign staff • Spreading stolen data using trolls and bots Source: Reuters Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  17. 17. CASE STUDY: #MACRONLEAKS (PART II) 17 • Spear phishing campaign • Hacktivist personas • Social media bots • Imagery board: 4chan SNAKEMACKEREL (APT 28) Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Source: Fancy Bears’ Hack Team website
  18. 18. 18 SKATE Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. CASE STUDY: ENDLESS MAYFLY & OPERATION NEWSCASTER 1. Used typo-squatted domains to create inauthentic websites 2. Promoted these domains on social media platforms using inauthentic personas 3. Hosted malicious mobile applications 4. Leveraged “ephemeral disinformation” – Burn After Reading 18
  19. 19. CASE STUDY: CYBER-NATIONALISM TO FANDOM NATIONALISM 19 Cyber-nationalism Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Born with nationalistic and patriotic sentiment State-influenced “Striking-back” principle: “we will not attack unless we are attacked” Following key historical dates and international events involving in state’s interests
  20. 20. CASE STUDY: CYBER-NATIONALISM TO FANDOM NATIONALISM 20 Fandom Nationalism Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Born with nationalistic and patriotic sentiment State-influenced “Striking-back” through social media Following international events involving in state’s interests
  21. 21. CASE STUDY: CYBER-NATIONALISM TO FANDOM NATIONALISM 21 Diba Expedition Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved. Actor: Warriors/Crusaders Weapon: Emoji packs Battlefield: Social media platforms Goal: National unity?
  22. 22. WHEREISTHIS HEADING? 22Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.
  23. 23. 23 This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY HACKING
  24. 24. A FOREVER WAR OF DECEPTION: DEEPFAKES EMERGE 24
  25. 25. 25 SUGGESTIONS • Follow geopolitical events • Set social media policies • Filter inauthentic accounts • Verify claims • Investigate information sources Copyright © 2019 Accenture. All rights reserved.

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