What is it?

Hackers use cyber-defacement to change the visual appearance of a website or a webpage; in order to do so, they break into the web server of the targeted victim, and replace the hosted website with their own.

Our experts’ explanation

Cyber-defacement is linked with “hacktivism”, which is the use of computer networks and the Internet to promote political messages and protests. The main purpose of cyber-defacement is to censor the freedom of speech of those with whom the hackers don’t agree.

Cyber-defacement usually only impacts particular websites like government agencies’ websites and organizations (such as the Americans White House or the FBI, for example). This type of attack has been seen in different countries all around the world.

Altering a website is a crime: criminals who are actively deleting pages or graphics and replacing them so that they can control the website’s message are making unauthorized use of someone else’s computer or computer account, which is condemned by the law.

One example of cyber-defacement for hacktivism purposes took place in November 2013. Anonymous cyber-criminals defaced more than a hundred Australian Government websites; the hackers were located in Indonesia and acted in response to reports, which were released a few days prior to the attack, of spying by Australia. The hackers took control of the Government websites and used cyber-defacement to propagate the message “Stop Spying on Indonesia”.

It is quite easy to restore a vandalized website: the owner must shut down their website temporarily, in order to re-establish the original files of the sabotaged webpages. It is also highly recommended that the security of the hacked server is improved, so that such an attack doesn’t happen again. Once these things are done, the website can be re-opened to public traffic.