Number of hacktivist attacks declined by 95 percent since 2015

Pierluigi Paganini May 18, 2019

According to a study conducted by IBM, the number of hacktivist attacks that caused quantifiable damage has declined by 95 percent since 2015.

Even if in Italy the cells of the popular Anonymous collective are very active, the overall number of hacktivist attacks that caused in quantifiable damage to the victim has declined by 95 percent since 2015.

Researchers analyzed data collected by IBM’s X-Force threat intelligence unit between 2015 and 2019. Collected information shows a drop in the hacktivist attacks from 35 in 2015 to only 2 attacks in 2018.

hacktivists attacks 2

However, IBM experts only collected data on hacktivist attacks that resulted in quantifiable damage.

Most of the hacktivist attacks carried out between 2015 and 2018 were attributed to Anonymous (45%), followed at a distance by Lizard Squad (9%), and DownSec and New World Hackers (4%).

hacktivists attacks

“The “IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2019” highlighted troubling trends in the cybersecurity landscape, including a rise in vulnerability reporting, cryptojacking attacks and attacks on critical infrastructure organizations.” reads a blog post published by IBM. “Yet amid all the concern, there is one threat trend that our data suggests has been on the decline: hacktivism — the subversive use of internet-connected devices and networks to promote a political or social agenda.”

The experts believe that the decline in the number of attacks carried out by hacktivists is caused by two major factors: a drop in attacks launched by Anonymous, and the intensification of the operations conducted by law enforcement that led to the arrests of hacktivists.

Since 2010, Anonymous has become one of the most active collectives of hacktivists in the world, reaching a peak of activity in early- to mid-2016,

At the time, Anonymous hit several high-profile organizations, but according to IBM the group started to decline “possibly due to an attrition of key leadership, differences of opinion and a struggle to find an ideological focus.”

X-Force data shows only eight Anonymous attacks in 2015 and 2016, and only one in 2018.

Arrests and legal warnings targeting hacktivists had an important deterrent action, according to IBM law enforcement agencies in the U.S., U.K. and Turkey have arrested at least 62 hacktivists since 2011, but the actual number could be greater.

“Three of the arrested hacktivists received sentences in 2018 and 2019, all with prison time of three years or greater, including one with a 10-year prison sentence.” continues IBM.

The alleged Anonymous member, Martin Gottesfeld, was accused of launching DDoS attacks against the two US healthcare organizations in 2014, the Boston Children’s Hospital and the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network.

In January, the hacktivist was sentenced to 121 months in prison and the judge ordered to pay nearly $443,000 to compensate the damages.

“Where are hacktivist attacks likely to go from here? We are reluctant to say that the era of hacktivism has come to an end. Acute social justice issues, greater organizational capabilities among hacktivist groups and a stronger shift to areas that lay beyond the reach of law enforcement all have the potential to dramatically change the face of hacktivism in a relatively short period of time.” concludes IBM. “More likely than not, we are experiencing a lull in hacktivist activity rather than a conclusion.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacktivist attacks, hacking)

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