What is cyber-defacement and how to deal with it?

What is cyber-defacement?

Cyber-defacement is one of the techniques hackers use to annoy website owners and to send a message. Simply put, during cyber-defacement a hacker breaks into the web server where the targeted website is hosted and replaces the original website with their own website, which is usually similar to the original site with some things changed or added (the defacement).

What is the goal of cyber-defacement?

Cyber-defacement of websites is a technique frequently used by so-called hacktivists, who use their technical skills and the internet to promote their political views and carry out protests. Typically, hacktivists who carry out cyber-defacement want to voice their protest and send a message, or silence and censor the owner of the website. It is very rare for websites of private individuals or businesses to become victims of cyber-defacement. These attacks mostly focus on the websites of government organizations and agencies all around the world.

Is cyber-defacement legal?

Even though the act of cyber-defacement happens on the internet, it is considered to be illegal, as it involves the unauthorized use of a computer or internet account that belongs to somebody else. It doesn’t matter what is done to the website – whether the site is replaced completely or only one comma is changed, all of the cyber-defacement activity is illegal.

Examples of cyber-defacement

You don’t need to look far to find an example of cyber-defacement – over the years, dozens of government websites in different countries of the world have fallen victim to these attacks. For instance, in 2013 unidentified hackers attacked and defaced over a hundred websites that belonged to the Australian Government. Reportedly, the hackers were from Indonesia, as they defaced government websites by adding a message “Stop spying on Indonesia” to them. This was done in response to reports of Australian government spying that were released a few days prior to the attacks.

How to mitigate the consequences of cyber-defacement?

Fortunately, dealing with cyber-defacement is very easy – all the owners need to do is take down their website for a brief period of time and return the website to its original form by changing its code. It is also important to improve the security of the server where the website is hosted to prevent defacement attacks from happening again. After that, the website can safely be up and running again.

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    Vitaly is a principal consultant at Hackcontrol as wall as aa business and IT thought leader. He has over 15 years of experience in consulting, account management and is a specialist in cybersecurity.