Leftwing Extremists

Leftwing Extremists Likely to Increase Use of Cyber Attacks over the Coming Decade

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Strategic Analysis Group
  • Homeland Environment and Threat Analysis Division
  • 9 pages
  • Unclassified
  • For Official Use Only
  • January 26, 2009

(U//FOUO) This assessment examines the potential threat to homeland security from cyber attacks conducted by leftwing extremists, a threat that DHS/I&A believes likely will grow over the next decade. It focuses on the more prominent leftwing groups within the animal rights, environmental, and anarchist extremist movements that promote or have conducted criminal or terrorist activities (see Appendix). This assessment is intended to alert DHS policymakers, state and local officials, and intelligence analysts monitoring the subject so they can better focus their collection requirements and analysis.

(U//FOUO) DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) judges that a number of emerging trends point to leftwing extremists maturing and expanding their cyber attack capabilities over the next decade with the aim of attacking targets in the United States.

— (U//FOUO) The potential for economic damage, the individually-initiated and anonymous nature of cyber attacks, and the perception that cyber attacks are nonviolent align well with the ideological beliefs, strategic objectives, and tactics of many leftwing extremists.

— (U//FOUO) The increasing reliance of commercial businesses and other enterprises on cyber technologies, including interconnected networks and remote access, creates new and expanding vulnerabilities that technically-savvy leftwing extremists will exploit.

— (U//FOUO) The proliferation of cyber technologies and expertise as well as the public availability of online hacking tools and “hackers-for-hire” offer leftwing extremists incentives to adopt a cyber attack strategy.

(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A believes that the availability of cyber technologies and expertise such as online hacking tools and hackers-for-hire provides leftwing extremists with resources to augment their own homegrown cyber attack capabilities. Resources and capabilities for successful cyber attacks are becoming more accessible to the public as evidenced by online advertisements for hacking services and software. A simple online search provides users with numerous links to discussion forums and websites that offer hacking tutorials and information regarding exploitable system vulnerabilities. In addition, illegal file-sharing sites allow pirated copies of hacking software to be freely exchanged.

— (U//FOUO) In October 2007, law enforcement authorities discovered a group advertising hacking services to customers seeking passwords to the e-mail accounts of spouses, employees, and business competitors.

— (U//FOUO) A website identified early in 2008 originating in the United States provided customers the ability to purchase and download hacking tools and malicious codes as well as video tutorials on how to use the software.

(U//FOUO) DHS/I&A believes that the emerging trend exhibited by some leftwing extremists of posting hacking-related materials on their websites signifies their intent to develop more robust cyber strategies over the coming decade.

— (U) The Anarchist Cookbook, continually updated and revised in online versions and accessible on numerous anarchist, animal rights, and environmental websites, contains several chapters focusing on hacking techniques and tutorials.

(U//FOUO) The following highlight a range of signposts that may expose leftwing extremists’ intent—either domestically or abroad—to develop more robust cyber attack strategies:

— (U//FOUO) Increasing number of statements by leftwing extremists advocating the use of cyber attack techniques.

— (U//FOUO) Increasing number of communiques published on leftwing extremist websites claiming credit for cyber attacks.

— (U//FOUO) Suspicious cyber attack activity or increased frequency, creativity, or severity against traditional primary, secondary, and tertiary targets of leftwing extremists.

— (U//FOUO) Evidence that leftwing extremist groups or activists are recruiting or attempting to acquire the services of individuals with cyber capabilities.

(U) Hacktivism: The convergence of “hacking” and “activism,” using cyber technologies to achieve a political end. Hacktivism includes website defacement, denial-of-service attacks, hacking into the target’s network to introduce malicious software, information theft, insider attacks, economic sabotage, and other malicious Internet-based activities.

(U//FOUO) DHS/Office of Intelligence and Analysis defines leftwing extremists as groups or individuals who embrace radical elements of the anarchist, animal rights, or environmental movements and are often willing to violate the law to achieve their objectives. Many leftwing extremist groups are not hierarchically ordered with defined members, leaders, or chain of command structures but operate as loosely-connected underground movements composed of “lone wolves,” small cells, and splinter groups.

— (U//LES) Animal rights and environmental extremists seek to end the perceived abuse and suffering of animals and the degradation of the natural environment perpetrated by humans. They use non-violent and violent tactics that, at times, violate criminal law. Many of these extremists claim they are conducting these activities on behalf of two of the most active groups, the Animal Liberation Front and its sister organization, the Earth Liberation Front. Other prominent groups include Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty; and chapters within the Animal Defense League, and Earth First!.

— (U//FOUO) Anarchist extremists generally embrace a number of radical philosophical components of anticapitalist, antiglobalization, communist, socialist, and other movements. Anarchist groups seek abolition of social, political, and economic hierarchies, including Western-style governments and large business enterprises, and frequently advocate criminal actions of varying scale and scope to accomplish their goals. Anarchist extremist groups include entities within Crimethinc, the Ruckus Society,and Recreate 68.

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