Cyber attacks, such as the recent one on the New York Times, are more about gaining attention than causing damage, according to Akamai computer security incident response team (CSIRT) director, Michael Smith.
While Smith admits that cyber attacks are often designed to punish a particular organisation that is targeted by hactivists, he adds that the aim is to also generate press for their cause.
“What we have seen with hactivists is that attacking a website tends to be more about generating media coverage about their cause than it is about which site they targeted or what the impact was,” he said.
In the case of the New York Times, DNS records were altered by The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA), but Smith warns that DDOS, defacement and other popular forms of hacktivism are not going away either.
“The key thing to remember is that individual vulnerabilities may be different, but the attacker won’t always pick the easiest or least risky way to achieve their goals,” he said.
“In the case of wanting to punish a certain content provider or site, there are many different ways to do that.”
Power of advertising
Smith said that risk for the attacker can also come into the hacking equation, as well as how that site is defended.
“That’s why you have things such as SEA comprising domain registrars, third party content, and advertising services,” he said.
The latter is highlighted by Smith as being particularly potent.
“When you compromise the advertising services, then any site that includes that content from the advertising service shows up on a site,” he said.
Thus, if a third party provider is breached, then the hactivists can display the malicious content on the target site.
Patrick Budmar covers consumer and enterprise technology breaking news for IDG Communications. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patrick_budmar.