At the end of February, a hacktivist who calls themself “JaXpArO and My Little Anonymous Revival Project” breached far-right social media platform Gab, pulling out 70 gigabytes of data from the backend databases.The attacker obtained user profiles, private posts, and chat messages written by users that include white supremacists, supporters of the QAanon movement, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy theorists, some of whom were associated with the Capitol Hill riot on January 6.
This data was leaked to transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), which now makes it available to journalists and researchers upon request.
In the past few months, the volume of data made public by hacktivists skyrocketed, because companies are hosting a lot more data compared to several years ago. “2020 set a record for the most information leaked to the public in a single year, one that was quickly smashed by the first months of 2021,” wrote DDoSecrets co-founder Emma Best.
GabLeak is just one of the many recent incidents. At the beginning of January, DDoSecrets released a collection of more than a million videos downloaded by a hacktivist from the right-wing social network Parler. Some of those were recorded during the Capitol Hill riot.
Many such acts tend to be politically motivated, but a few also expose ways in which technology can be used against people. In March, hacktivists breached security-camera startup Verkada, exposing footage from more than 150,000 organizations, including Tesla, Cloudflare, schools, jails, hospitals, and police stations. Swiss hacker Tillie Kottmann, who was associated with the hack, told Bloomberg why they did it: “lots of curiosity, fighting for freedom of information and against intellectual property, a huge dose of anti-capitalism, a hint of anarchism—and it’s also just too much fun not to do it.”