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Hacktivism: Are You Ready for the Online Attack?

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Hacktivism: Are You Ready for the Online Attack?

  1. 1. Hacktivism:Are YouReadyfor theOnlineAttack? Kaitlyn Wilkins, Chris Heydt, Heidi Hess November 2012
  2. 2. 2 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012 Table of Contents The Purpose of this POV 3 The Era of Hacktivism 4 Companies React 5 Content: The New Battleground 7 Five Tips for Corporate Readiness 8 About Social@Ogilvy 9
  3. 3. 3 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012 The Purpose of this POV T he purpose of this POV is to provide brands with an overview of new forms of activism, in which organized groups or individual citizens leverage online and social media platforms as part of broader issues campaigns. It also suggests a five-step readiness framework for anticipating and reacting to potential attacks.
  4. 4. 4 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012The Eraof HacktivismL arge corporations have long been the ƒƒ Facebook Protests and Hijacks: Swarms target of activist groups, special interests of activists take over a brand wall with and other mobilized organizations issues-based posts, or an individual maythat seek to trade on the company’s size use a highly trafficked brand wall for aand visibility to advance their own agenda. singular post that gains momentum fromFrom picketing to letter writing campaigns the community.on corporate issues (real or imagined), theworld’s largest brands are no strangers to ƒƒ Parody Accounts: Especially in timesdealing with issues-based onslaughts. of crisis, fake “corporate accounts” may appear, parodying a real issue and brand.However, social media has given activistsa new weapon – and most companies find ƒƒ Spoof Content and Memes: Consumersthemselves unprepared to cope when the new today have access to creative toolsgeneration of “hacktivists” appears on their that make them as “professional” asvirtual doorstep. Unlike the letter-writing or commercial-quality advertising. Spoofstunts of old, which were somewhat limited content, photos and videos are commonin scope and visibility, social media and digital vehicles for attacks, or less seriousgive activists a way to besiege a company in a mockeries.long-term, high- profile manner. ƒƒ Crowdsourcing Contests: Organized andOnline activism can spring up in many places, incentivized contest that invite consumers toand those who jump on the bandwagon may create their own parody content.have a variety of intentions. It is common tosee activism targeted at brands stemming ƒƒ Electronic Terrorism: More serious formsfrom well-organized groups looking to of hacking, that may include DNS attacks,draw attention to issues (e.g., Greenpeace), viruses or accessing proprietary companycyber rings looking to wreak havoc (e.g., or consumer information.Anonymous), parody entertainment groups(e.g., Funny or Die) as well as from individual, Social media has leveled the activist playingunorganized citizens. field, and a single tweet or Facebook post could be as serious a threat as an organizedSome of the most common forms of attack by a special-interest group.hacktivism include:
  5. 5. 5 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012Companies ReactT here is no single strategy for responding and the everyday citizens. Corporate reactions to hacktivism, as each company, must recognize and react in an equally corporate culture and situation is integrated fashion, or pay the consequences.unique. However, the one universal truth isthat it is impossible to separate an “online” Below are some examples of well-knownand “offline” incident, as social media is brands that have faced activists or issues-seamlessly used by activists, advocacy groups based brand attacks:The situation GroupShell: Arctic Ready Hoax Activist group Yes Labs, GreenpeaceOn June 7, 2012 a digital campaign was The Corporate Responselaunched to rally against Shell’s Arctic drillingplans. The Campaign included: Shell issued a corporate statement on the hoax campaign via traditional media (pressƒƒ A counterfeit Shell website and hoax ad release to journalists), and did not respond to campaign asking for user-submitted ads in the hoax in the medium where it was occurring support of Arctic drilling. – online. The response format and delayed statement led to additional confusion amongƒƒ An @arcticready Twitter handle. consumers and perpetuated the duration of the coverage.ƒƒ A video of a staged press conference “gone wrong” with the Twitter hashtag, The Lesson #ShellFAIL. Tracking an activist attack and responding (ifƒƒ Recruitment of select bloggers to take part appropriate) in the medium where the issue in the hoax is occurring is paramount to controlling the narrative and emphasizing the truth.The initial three days of the hoax resulted inmore than 19.5 million impressions on Twitterand more than 39 million impressions via blogposts.
  6. 6. 6 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012The situation The SituationKenneth Cole: #CairoTweets Starbucks: Guns CoffeeAfter the designer himself tweeted an In the United States there is a fringeintensive promotional message linking his ne firearms rights group who petitions statesfall line to protest in Cairo, Cole was besieged to adopt “open carry” laws allowing licensedwith protest and spoof content with went viral. individuals to carry hand guns openly. To@KennethColePR was a fake twitter handle bring the issue to the forefront, a looselyset up by a jokester who continued to tweet organized group of open carry activistsmemorable one-liners akin to Cole’s faux pas. targeted Starbucks in liberal cities located inAnother individual created a Photoshopped states where open carry was permitted. Thepicture of a Kenneth Cole storefront with the result was an offline and online media frenzyinfamous tweet decaled on a front – sparking and reaction from the unionized baristas atdays long debate about its authenticity. Starbucks.Group GroupIndividuals and unorganized online jokesters Lobby group OpenCarry.orgThe Corporate Response The Corporate ResponseKenneth Cole apologized publicly and profusely Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was forced toon Facebook and Twitter for his mistake. adopt a position on gun control overnight. TheHowever, no further remark on the decal company ultimately decided, despite pressuredebate nor @KennethColePR was ever made from gun control groups and baristas. To defer– causing some to question ho the crisis was to the state law on the open carry issue, so ashandled. The fake Twitter account ultimatelly not to turn gun control into a legacy issue foroffered to stop tweeting and hand over the the brand. It has reinforced this stance in theprofile if Kenneth Cole donated to a charity face of boycotts from gun control lobbies oversuch as Amnesty International. The account the past two yearswas ultimately removed. The LessonThe Lesson Be ready for the unexpected, create a flexibleA timely apology is key – but one post may not response framework that can be applied tobe enough to counteract the volume of content any situation.and conversation that an issue can generate.Staying active and responsive throughout theissue will help cut down on speculation andrumors.
  7. 7. 7 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012Content:The New BattlegroundI n the last 24 months, one of the major content has the power to rapidly accelerate an advantages gained by hacktivists is the activist agenda, and create confusion in the leveling of the content playing field. Tools marketplace.and creative resources once available only tolarge companies and creative agencies are The Shell Arctic Ready campaign by Yes Labsnow affordable, widely accessible and in the and Greenpeace pre-empted a real Shellhands of the public. corporate brand campaign, and flooded the market with fake-PR and spoof content. It alsoAs illustrated above, the ability to create (or invited consumers to get involved and createask the public to create) commercial-quality their own: Activist billboard covering, and parody digital content. Real Shell print ad.Combatting a “successful” activist attack on a brand now requires more than good PR after thefact. It requires a robust, multi-channel readiness, escalation and reaction plan.
  8. 8. 8 HACKTIVISM: ARE YOU READY FOR THE ONLINE ATTACK? NOVEMBER 2012Five Tips forCorporate ReadinessT he saying goes that “the best defense is a good offense.” While it is impossible to know what activist-led scenario may befall your brand, you can act today to set up processes and frameworks that will help you handle these incidents in a calm and strategic manner.1. Always-On Listening 4. Know Your Escalation ProceduresAlways-on social listening of owned platforms(like Facebook) and non-owned platforms like Knowing when to react, and when not toblogs and message boards can help ensure over-react is key, and mapping out escalationyou are discovering and containing potential procedures ahead of time can help coolerissues before they become large. heads prevail in a live situation. Escalation procedures should include points of contact,2. Plan for the Worst stakeholders who must be involved, final decision-makers, and weekend contacts.Think like an activist. Look at your marketing,your CSR and your corporate history and 5. Get Ready to Play Offenseanticipate the most likely scenarios forsocial activism. Don’t forget to anticipate the As a situation escalates, simply posting aunexpected, like the Starbucks Open Carry statement via traditional or digital meansexample above. may not be enough. Additional management tactics, such as social media monitoring,3. Develop Response Protocol search intent modeling, content creation and distribution, dark sites, keyword marketingAll organizations, especially those engaging and other forms of paid media may be requiredin social media proactively, should have a to manage the situation.Response Protocol document that is primarilyused to guide day-to-day discussion onplatforms. However, this document must alsoinclude “red alert” response protocol, should aproblem arise – including holding statements,which can be invaluable in minimizing publicoutcry while a larger solution or response isdiscussed.
  9. 9. About Social@OgilvyS ocial@Ogilvy is the largest social media marketing communications network in the world. Named 2011 Global Digital/Social Consultancy of the Year by The Holmes Report, the practiceleverages social media expertise across all Ogilvy Mather disciplines,offering an extensive list of services within the foundational businesssolutions – Listening and Analytics; Social Business Solutions; SocialMedia Marketing and Communications; Social Shopping; Social CRM;Social Care; and Conversation Impact.For more information, visit and connect withus at,, and
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