CypherCon 2023

Having a Hacktivism Ethos While Mitigating Unethical Sabotage

Jesse McGraw (GhostExodus)


The objective of this discussion is to address why having ethics and a foundation of principles when engaged in hacktivist activities will make hackers mindful of the targets they affect, as well as the people beind those systems being targetted.

Due to the fanatical rush to attack systems directed by other hacktivsts or groups, there are an untold number of unjustified victims caused by unwarrented cyberattacks that deviate from the objective.

In his talk, GhostExodus aims to help the listener formulate an ideology that helps preserve the integrity of the spirit of hacktivism, while at the same time reveal how it’s every hacktivists responsibility to ensure that civilians never become collateral in a hackers cyberwar agaisnt offending governments and corporations.

But because hacktivism today is largely controlled by a cult-of-personality, actors largely do not perceive the damage they are causing to actual people and companies who’s only crime was having an IP address within the same netblock as the the objective of their operation.

That’s why he’s been ambiguously helping to shape hacktivists from within while remaining ancillary to the cause. He trains hackers to  be mindful, and to prohibit collateral to systems and/or people who have nothing to do with the mission, while at the same time encouraging them to carry the burden of warning businesses and institutions of plots by others to sabotage their network infrastructure or digital assets.

Jesse McGraw (GhostExodus)

Solitary Confinement

GhostExodus is a former black hat computer hacker and insider threat. He was also the founder and leader of the hacking group known as the Electronik Tribulation Army. His background in computer hacking began in 1998 and eventually found his way into working as a network security analyst.

Strangely enough, he has little formal education and is almost entirely raised by library books and eventually the internet. Growing up in Southern California, he was a classical concert pianist and musical prodigy at age 7. By age 12 he was rigorously training for a scholarship to Juilliard until computers changed the trajectory of his life.

He was arrested in 2009 for installing malware on healthcare systems. Upon conviction, he became the first person in recent US history ever to be convicted for corrupting industrial control systems and ultimately served nearly 11 years in federal prison.

After over a decade isolated from technology, he emerged into a new world that had evolved technologically and sociologically. Though it’s been an uphill battle to find his place in the cybersecurity landscape, nowadays I’m a freelance cybersecurity and blockchain tech writer with close ties to the hacking community, where he exists as a mentor to hacktivists.

Now, he uses his experiences as a former cybercriminal to bring awareness to security risks, while at the same time striving to help shape the present generation of hacktivists. Additionally, he also co-hosts the Dallas Million Mask March.