Opinion: NaijaCyberHacktivists – To hack or not to hack?

By Kemi Omosanya

…a few people have raised the question of where the line is drawn between cyber activism and cyber terrorism.

NaijaCyberHacktivists, as they call themselves, have been generating a lot of media buzz because of their activities. They first caught attention in 2011 – when they launched attacks on government websites to protest the $1 billion the federal government had earmarked to be spent on Jonathan’s inauguration, and the delay in the signing of the Freedom of Information bill. In protest, they hacked into the NAPEP and NDDC websites.

When a lot of Nigerians took to the streets earlier this month to protest the fuel subsidy removal, a few others chose to express their dissent in another way – by hacking into websites owned mostly by government parastatals. The NaijaCyberHacktivists also hacked into Dangote Sugar website because staff members of the company were allegedly threatened with sack if they took part in the strike.

It is instructive that even after the strike and protests were called off, the hacktivists refused to take their lead from Organised Labour and in fact took a stance against them, saying they sold Nigerians out. The NaijaCyberHacktivists would later hack the NLC website to show their displeasure.

Quite a number of youths who are active on social media think it inspiring, and laud and retweet news of each fresh hack, but a few people have raised the question of where the line is drawn between cyber activism and cyber terrorism.

Cyber terrorism is the “premeditative use of disruptive activities against computer networks with the intention to cause harm or further social… political or similar objectives”. Cyber Hacktivism is defined as the “use of legal and illegal digital tools as a means of protest to promote political ends, including website defacement, redirects… and virtual sabotage”. Obviously there is no clear distinction between cyber terrorism and cyber hacktivism.

One must accept though, that in ‘revolutions’, people use the tools at their disposal to fight for their demands, and what the hacktivists are doing is no different. Hacking for a political purpose, referred to as cyber hacktivism, started to gain prominence in the early 90s and now it seems it has come to Nigeria to stay. The NaijaCyberHacktivists say they are not just an organisation, they are a movement and there is no fixed time frame for their activities, rather they will strike whenever there is a need.

It is apparent that times are changing in Nigeria; there is an awareness that was missing before. Gradually, the era of complacency and resilience is coming to an end and Nigerians are sending a message to the government that it is no longer business as usual, they will no longer sit back, watch and sigh as the country is plundered, instead they will use what they can – voices, pens, skills – to press for a real transformation in their land. Other Nigerians should learn one important thing from the hacktivists; it doesn’t start and end when Organised Labour says it does, the fight for our rights should never cease.

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