A report on the PBS NewsHour Website, claimed rap icon Tupac Shakur is alive and well--living with his arch-nemesis Biggie Smalls in a small town in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the story says more about the longevity of Wikileaks hacktivism than it does about Tupac.
As a Tupac fan, it wouldn't even be all that hard to believe that Tupac lives on. Tupac has appeared in at least three movies, and released nine new albums since his death. He is credited as the screenwriter of an as-yet-untitled movie currently being filmed. Tupac has been more prolific in the 15 years since his murder than most living entertainers.
Sadly, though, the story is not true. The PBS site was hacked by a group known as LulzSec in retaliation for a PBS documentary on WikiLeaks. The show, titled "WikiSecrets: The inside story of Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and the largest intelligence breach in U.S. history" does not speak kindly of Wikileaks, and hacktivists have already demonstrated solidarity with Wikileaks and what they perceive to be a violation of free speech and an attempt to obscure the truth.
Wired reports that attackers also planted a message at pbs.org/lulz which read, "All your base are belong to Lulzsec." The title of the page was "FREE BRADLEY MANNING. F**K FRONTLINE!" (Asterisks inserted by me).
My PCWorld peer Ian Paul notes that there seems to be a dramatic rise in high-profile attacks lately. I agree with Paul regarding cyber attacks in general, but I want to go a step farther and point out that hacktivism in particular seems to have caught on as an acceptable means of non-violent protest.
The defacing of the PBS Website is obviously an indictment of the network and Web server security at PBS, but the larger picture is that it is yet another example of the power wielded by hacktivists--hives of skilled hackers with a social conscience and a "Robin Hood" complex.
The original wave of hacktivism in defense of Wikileaks plagued sites like Amazon, Visa, and PayPal that dared to try and cut off Wikileaks funding or access to the Internet. The attacks against Sony seem to be linked with a hacktivist cause to avenge the Sony lawsuit against George Hotz--the PS3 hacker. Sony settled the lawsuit, but attackers have still stalked and plagued Sony and all of its various online services for the past month.
Companies can't make business decisions based on avoiding pissing off the hacktivists of the world. For one thing, pleasing one group will just piss off another--you can't make everyone happy. But, organizations need to do a better job of securing network resources and protecting data.
WikiLeaks was able to stay online, relatively unaffected by attempts to shut it down. Perhaps Wikileaks could consult for these other organizations to help them develop resilient networks that can withstand hacktivist attacks.