A Game Theoretical Approach to Hacktivism: Is Attack Likelihood a Product of Risks and Payoffs?

Jessica E. Bodford, Sau Kwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The current study examines hacktivism (i.e., hacking to convey a moral, ethical, or social justice message) through a general game theoretic framework - that is, as a product of costs and benefits. Given the inherent risk of carrying out a hacktivist attack (e.g., legal action, imprisonment), it would be rational for the user to weigh these risks against perceived benefits of carrying out the attack. As such, we examined computer science students' estimations of risks, payoffs, and attack likelihood through a game theoretic design. Furthermore, this study aims at constructing a descriptive profile of potential hacktivists, exploring two predicted covariates of attack decision making, namely, peer prevalence of hacking and sex differences. Contrary to expectations, results suggest that participants' estimations of attack likelihood stemmed solely from expected payoffs, rather than subjective risks. Peer prevalence significantly predicted increased payoffs and attack likelihood, suggesting an underlying descriptive norm in social networks. Notably, we observed no sex differences in the decision to attack, nor in the factors predicting attack likelihood. Implications for policymakers and the understanding and prevention of hacktivism are discussed, as are the possible ramifications of widely communicated payoffs over potential risks in hacking communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-77
Number of pages5
JournalCyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

Fingerprint

Sex Characteristics
Social Justice
imprisonment
computer science
Social Support
Computer science
social justice
Cost-Benefit Analysis
Decision Making
social network
Decision making
Students
decision making
costs
community
Costs
student

Keywords

  • decision making
  • descriptive norms
  • game theory
  • hacking
  • hacktivism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Science Applications

Cite this

A Game Theoretical Approach to Hacktivism : Is Attack Likelihood a Product of Risks and Payoffs? / Bodford, Jessica E.; Kwan, Sau.

In: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Vol. 21, No. 2, 01.02.2018, p. 73-77.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{5d1fa5ccbdf94d719b4d1ff34ed04e60,
title = "A Game Theoretical Approach to Hacktivism: Is Attack Likelihood a Product of Risks and Payoffs?",
abstract = "The current study examines hacktivism (i.e., hacking to convey a moral, ethical, or social justice message) through a general game theoretic framework - that is, as a product of costs and benefits. Given the inherent risk of carrying out a hacktivist attack (e.g., legal action, imprisonment), it would be rational for the user to weigh these risks against perceived benefits of carrying out the attack. As such, we examined computer science students' estimations of risks, payoffs, and attack likelihood through a game theoretic design. Furthermore, this study aims at constructing a descriptive profile of potential hacktivists, exploring two predicted covariates of attack decision making, namely, peer prevalence of hacking and sex differences. Contrary to expectations, results suggest that participants' estimations of attack likelihood stemmed solely from expected payoffs, rather than subjective risks. Peer prevalence significantly predicted increased payoffs and attack likelihood, suggesting an underlying descriptive norm in social networks. Notably, we observed no sex differences in the decision to attack, nor in the factors predicting attack likelihood. Implications for policymakers and the understanding and prevention of hacktivism are discussed, as are the possible ramifications of widely communicated payoffs over potential risks in hacking communities.",
keywords = "decision making, descriptive norms, game theory, hacking, hacktivism",
author = "Bodford, {Jessica E.} and Sau Kwan",
year = "2018",
month = "2",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1089/cyber.2016.0706",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "21",
pages = "73--77",
journal = "Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking",
issn = "2152-2715",
publisher = "Mary Ann Liebert Inc.",
number = "2",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - A Game Theoretical Approach to Hacktivism

T2 - Is Attack Likelihood a Product of Risks and Payoffs?

AU - Bodford, Jessica E.

AU - Kwan, Sau

PY - 2018/2/1

Y1 - 2018/2/1

N2 - The current study examines hacktivism (i.e., hacking to convey a moral, ethical, or social justice message) through a general game theoretic framework - that is, as a product of costs and benefits. Given the inherent risk of carrying out a hacktivist attack (e.g., legal action, imprisonment), it would be rational for the user to weigh these risks against perceived benefits of carrying out the attack. As such, we examined computer science students' estimations of risks, payoffs, and attack likelihood through a game theoretic design. Furthermore, this study aims at constructing a descriptive profile of potential hacktivists, exploring two predicted covariates of attack decision making, namely, peer prevalence of hacking and sex differences. Contrary to expectations, results suggest that participants' estimations of attack likelihood stemmed solely from expected payoffs, rather than subjective risks. Peer prevalence significantly predicted increased payoffs and attack likelihood, suggesting an underlying descriptive norm in social networks. Notably, we observed no sex differences in the decision to attack, nor in the factors predicting attack likelihood. Implications for policymakers and the understanding and prevention of hacktivism are discussed, as are the possible ramifications of widely communicated payoffs over potential risks in hacking communities.

AB - The current study examines hacktivism (i.e., hacking to convey a moral, ethical, or social justice message) through a general game theoretic framework - that is, as a product of costs and benefits. Given the inherent risk of carrying out a hacktivist attack (e.g., legal action, imprisonment), it would be rational for the user to weigh these risks against perceived benefits of carrying out the attack. As such, we examined computer science students' estimations of risks, payoffs, and attack likelihood through a game theoretic design. Furthermore, this study aims at constructing a descriptive profile of potential hacktivists, exploring two predicted covariates of attack decision making, namely, peer prevalence of hacking and sex differences. Contrary to expectations, results suggest that participants' estimations of attack likelihood stemmed solely from expected payoffs, rather than subjective risks. Peer prevalence significantly predicted increased payoffs and attack likelihood, suggesting an underlying descriptive norm in social networks. Notably, we observed no sex differences in the decision to attack, nor in the factors predicting attack likelihood. Implications for policymakers and the understanding and prevention of hacktivism are discussed, as are the possible ramifications of widely communicated payoffs over potential risks in hacking communities.

KW - decision making

KW - descriptive norms

KW - game theory

KW - hacking

KW - hacktivism

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85041711589&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=85041711589&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1089/cyber.2016.0706

DO - 10.1089/cyber.2016.0706

M3 - Article

C2 - 28475358

AN - SCOPUS:85041711589

VL - 21

SP - 73

EP - 77

JO - Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

JF - Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking

SN - 2152-2715

IS - 2

ER -