Cyber Vigilantes & Hacktivists: Double-Edged Sword Against ISIS

Bottom Line: Cyber vigilantes and “hacktivists” increasingly fill the void left by governments in combating terrorist activity online. While such politically motivated non-state hackers are relatively effective at removing the presence of terrorist content, their continued operations could damage overall counterterrorism efforts by undermining intelligence operations –  say by taking down a website that the CIA or NSA is monitoring. By letting these groups run loose – if even for a noble cause – the U.S. risks undermining international norms of cyber operations among states by legitimizing the phenomenon of “patriotic hackers” used as proxies by governments engaging in deniable operations.

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