AVG: Hacktivism is slowing down business

Summary:Hacktivist groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous are having an impact on certain businesses, but in general companies should be more worried about financial cybercrime, says AVG chief executive JR Smith

Czech security company AVG has about 98 million customers and users worldwide, thanks in large measure to its highly popular free antivirus software.

AVG's footprint as one of the planet's largest antivirus vendors gives it a good view of the threat landscape, according to the company. Its free product drives its paid-for business software, which is aimed at small businesses.

In recent years, a salient trend in cyberattacks has been online activism, which some commentators have labelled 'hacktivism'. Attacks by hacking groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec, which are designed to draw attention to political or other causes, have garnered numerous headlines over the past year. Anonymous and LulzSec have attacked organisations ranging from Visa to the UK Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

AVG chief executive JR Smith, who used to own the Telecoms Solutions Group, talked to ZDNet UK about hacktivism, government responses to cyberattacks, and mobile security issues.

Q: Hacktivism isn't a new phenomenon — so why do you think groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec have caught people's attention now?
A: There have always been various forms of activism online, but [Anonymous and LulzSec are] a bit more malicious. It's not just making your point, it's hurting commerce, slowing down business, and hurting people. They have a cause, but when you think about it, this is stopping business, and the Bart protest was stopping people from travelling — I'm not a big fan.

The Comodo hacker recently claimed to have compromised DigiNotar certificates as a protest against Netherlands soldiers' actions in surrendering to Serbian forces before the Srebrenica massacre.

He claimed to be protesting against the Netherlands government, but how is punishing the government going to help? Governments don't tend to respond to that kind of pressure very well. They are not going to be blackmailed.

The reason for doing many kinds of hacking has evolved, unless it's purely for profit. This guy has a new tool to make a point, which may be malicious. His motives are definitely questionable.

What should worry small business more — hacktivism, or attacks designed to steal data such as financial details?
These [hacktivist] guys aren't attacking consumers, but attacks have helped people wake up to the need to secure small businesses, as well as how to secure big enterprise networks. I don't think hacktivists are doing anything financially malicious with user information. These are kids, who may or may not be devious, but who may want to hack into systems and take customer information for other purposes.

Hacktivism is about raising awareness and swaying public opinion. For small businesses especially, different types of criminal activity are much more of a problem. Guys are looking to steal personal information from small businesses or personal details — that's the interesting information for criminals.

After successful attacks, small businesses in the US are learning that...

Topics: Security


Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com, writing about all manner of security and open-source issues.Tom had various jobs after leaving university, including working for a company that hired out computers as props for films and television, and a role turning the entire back catalogue of a publisher into e-books.Tom eventually found tha... Full Bio

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