While far from endorsing hacktivists, F-Secure chief research officer, Mikko Hypponen, says that at least in the instance of the attacks on Sony's PlayStation Network, things aren't black and white.s"
"Sony is an easy company to hate," he says. "Sony goes to extreme lengths to try to protect their own intellectual property, but they don't seem to care much of the protection of their customers' information."
Hypponen says Sony has long history of "going after legitimate innovation and hobbyists" and cites examples such as Sony BMG shipping hidden Windows rootkits on music CDs, Sony shipping a rootkit on its Microvault USB sticks, the killing of Linux support on the PlayStation 3, and threatening hobbyists for creating software that enables Sony's Aibo robot dog to dance.
Rather than fist waving, Hypponen says organisations, industry and government need to take a different approach to their relations with hackers.
"Don't make enemies," he says. "Don't belittle hackers. Understand that people want to tinker with your products. Don't go after pirates too aggressively. Be tolerant."
Sophos' head of technology, Paul Ducklin, says he doesn't see any positives in the actions of groups like LulzSec and refuses to use words such as 'activism' in the same sentence as LulzSec "without a strong negative to join them".
"LulzSec, whoever he/she/it/they was/were, expressly stated that their 'hacking' was for fun, because the cyber security industry was boring," he says. "If you must find a silver lining to the ugly cloud that is LulzSec, then perhaps it will be that more business managers will see security as having value to be sought, not just as being a cost to be avoided."
Ducklin also points to the Hackers For Charity group -- a non-profit organisation that seeks to solve technology challenges for various non-profits and provide food, equipment, job training and computer education to the world's poorest citizens.
"As for 'the future of hacktivism' -- to the Anonymous and LulzSec hangers on out there, grow some social conscience and learn to hack for good, if you're good enough," Ducklin says.
Already signs are emerging that the predicted crackdown is occurring. In late July the FBI said it had arrested a total of 14 individuals thought to belong to the Anonymous hacking group for their alleged participation in a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) against PayPal last year.
Reports also suggests that as many as half -- suspects Jake Davis, Ryan Cleary and an unnamed 17 year old -- of LulzSec's believed six members have either been arrested or detained by police.
However, signs point to the arrests as being far from the end of LulzSec or Anonymous or hacktivism in general. If anything the arrests have prompted greater co-operation between LulzSec and Anonymous and an evolution toward more focus on activism than hacking.
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