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Because hacking in such a manner is unethical, it makes me wonder why people do such a thing and whether spreading a message in this manner will gain any sympathy from the rest of the world.

Are there incidents that prove defacing a website to be an effective means of garnering support for a political cause?

Has any study been done with regards to the area of hacktivism's effectiveness?

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  • I'm stepping in because this is a valid question, but the edit wars are not useful. Neither is the example, which appears in almost Colbert-esque fashion to be seeking nothing more than the insertion of such a hack here. It will not be tolerated :) – Affable Geek Jun 14 '13 at 19:53
  • If there is a constructive answer to be had, please flag me so I can unlock it for you. – Affable Geek Jun 14 '13 at 19:53
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I could not find any study related to the exact question, but hacking a single website to spread a political message is very unlikely to be effective:

  • time to detect web site changes (defacement) can be very small, as very efficient defacement detection algorithms can be implemented
  • once the defacement is detected, the web site is closed, so it can be restored

On the other hand, using several methods (using legitimate web sites for politics news, fake news on various social networks etc.) can be effective.

This article explains how the political cyberhacker Andrés Sepúlveda managed to use digital techniques to manipulate the outcome of the elections in Mexico.

According to the cited article, these techniques are not very effective overall, but may have important influence on the political outcome:

Many of Sepúlveda’s efforts were unsuccessful, but he has enough wins that he might be able to claim as much influence over the political direction of modern Latin America as anyone in the 21st century.

One "success story" depicts how the hacking was performed:

With a budget of $600,000, the Peña Nieto job was by far his most complex. He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Peña Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory.

As a side note, this article from Symantec shows a list of security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hackers:

[...] we discovered that there’s an opportunity for a hacker to modify the code put on a voter’s chip card [...] We found a card reader that fits neatly into the palm of our hand and used it to reset our fake voter chip cards two different ways.

The lack of full disk encryption on the internal hard drive (as well as the external cartridges) presents opportunities for hackers to reprogram and alter ballots.

Also, the methods used by Andrés Sepúlveda are mentioned:

By propagating misinformation, a hacktivist or attacker could cause voter distrust of election results.

In our simulated election, we broadcast our results “live” on YouTube. We found that it’s plausible for hackers to hijack means of communication and spread false results on YouTube, broadcast media, social media and other channels. If voters were to follow the poll leader, they might not choose to go through the trouble of voting in an election if it looked like they were in for a landslide victory.

This is hardly an exhaustive answer. However, I think it is plausible that concerted hacking actions is effective in some contexts.

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No, it isn't effective.

Israel's Support has never been higher.

Favorability Isreal, Palestinian Authority, Iran

This isn't unexpected, since hacking is illegal and unethical. The sort of person with questionable moral character who would engage in this sort of activity couldn't be trusted to provide a truthful political message. Which is the case here, in the linked hacked site above.

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    Since you have made attempts to improve my question, you should be quite clear that the subject is on hacktivism and not the Israel-Palestine conflict. I don't see how your answer is on-topic at all. – Question Overflow Jun 15 '13 at 8:31
  • @QuestionOverflow, it is a anecdotal example. You aren't going to find a controlled study, only observational ones. – user1873 Jun 15 '13 at 14:53
  • "The sort of person with questionable moral character who would engage in this sort of activity couldn't be trusted" = that seems like a pretty wild assumption. – user1530 Jun 17 '13 at 16:05
  • @DA. haha uh well people who intentionally break things are associated psychologically with negativity inherently and others would be biased into seeing them as liars. – user1858 Feb 3 '14 at 22:52
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    @J.C.Leitão he doesn't have to demonstrate that. Demonstrating a lack of correlation between hacking and negative views shows that hacking doesn't cause negative views. He doesn't need to show that it does cause positive views. That's not the problem with this answer, the problem is that it uses a single example to answer a more general question. An answer would need more general data. – Publius Feb 4 '14 at 15:10

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