Online threats and online attacks are becoming more frequent, according to a new study.
In the US, threats against US service providers and individuals are on the rise and are threatening to destroy the economy.
On December 7, an anonymous hacker called the “Anonymous” released a file containing a database containing personal information of nearly 150,000 US government employees.
“Anonymous” is a reference to Anonymous, a group that operates as a cyber-activist group that seeks to disrupt corporate websites.
The data includes names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and other information.
“The goal is to make this information available to the public in a way that’s easy for everyone to access and use,” said Paul J. Vaziri, a senior research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a member of the advisory board for the American Privacy Forum.
“We have to protect the security of our users, but also make sure that they’re protected from online attacks that we haven’t seen in the past.”
Vaziri’s research found that the rise in threats and attacks is being driven by a growing trend of anonymous users and groups of anonymous people using social media and other online services to spread their own information and attack businesses and governments.
“It’s become the new normal,” Vaziris told Al Jazeera.
“People have been emboldened to do things that they would never do in the ’90s or the ’00s.”
Viktor Lefkowitz, a researcher at the US National Institute for Standards and Technology, said the rise of anonymous groups online could be seen as a “dangerous evolution”.
“We’re seeing a whole new range of attacks and activities that are increasingly being directed at US government and private sector organisations,” he said.
“There’s this increasing threat of a new kind of political hacking.
The kind of ‘cyber-terrorism’ of the ’70s and ’80s was a very different form of political attack.”
Virtually all online activity, including email, social media, video streaming, and blogging, are now done by anonymous individuals and groups.
“Most of the data we’re seeing is generated from social media accounts,” Lefke said.
Lefke told Al-Jazeera that, as with all types of social media activity, there’s always a risk that someone could use the data to attack, harm or even steal it.
“I think the more we can see the data, the more confidence we have that people are going to use it responsibly,” he added.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the rise “cyberwarfare” and said that, by threatening to leak personal information, the Anonymous hack is an example of the types of attacks that have become more prevalent in recent years.
“As long as the people who are making these threats are using social networks and social media as a platform to engage in political attacks, then it’s only going to continue to get worse,” said Michael Cote, director of the ACLU National Security Project.
The EFF’s Jens Ludwig told Aljazeera that the new data could help to counter threats by providing a new way to protect personal information and to protect information in the event of a threat.
“You’re not going to have a problem unless the data is exposed to hackers,” Ludwig said.
But he added that the data could also give rise to other new forms of digital warfare.
“When you have a threat, you’re not trying to stop the attack, but you’re trying to make it stop,” Ludwig added.
“This is not the kind of thing that’s going to stop it from happening again.”
According to the ACLU, it’s important for law enforcement and cybersecurity professionals to have access to the information to help them investigate and respond to potential cyberattacks.