Hackers bring down Oz government websites
Groups opposing the [Australian] government's internet censorship plans have condemned today's attacks on government websites, saying it will do little to help their cause, while Communications Minister Stephen Conroy called them "totally irresponsible".
Hackers connected with the group Anonymous, known for its war against Scientology, this morning launched a broad attack on government websites.
They are protesting against forthcoming internet filtering legislation and the perceived censorship in pornography of small-breasted women (who are thought to be under age) and female ejaculation.
A flyer Anonymous used to recruit people for the hack attack.
Several government sites were down this morning and the hackers have promised to follow up by spamming government offices with pornographic emails, faxes and prank phone calls.
The Attorney-General's department this morning confirmed the attacks and said the Department of Defence Cyber Security Operations Centre was monitoring the situation.
A spokeswoman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the attacks were not a legitimate form of political statement. They were "totally irresponsible and potentially deny services to the Australian public".
The attacks, organised under the banner "Operation: Titstorm", come five months after hackers connected with the same group briefly brought down the Prime Minister's website. At the time the hackers said they would regroup and launch new attacks.
Flyers distributed to recruit participants for the operation said the denial of service attacks on government servers would begin at 8am today.
The Parliament of Australia website, aph.gov.au, was down for a period this morning, while access to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy's website was patchy.
A spokesman for the Department of Parliamentary Services, which runs the Parliament House website, said at the peak of the attack the site was receiving 7.5 million hits a second, up from the few hundred per second it normally receives.
He said the website was inaccessible for about an hour from 8am, and was offline intermittently due to the four attacks that had been detected by lunchtime.
It is not clear how many other sites were targeted but it appears a wide range of government servers were flooded with traffic.
Anonymous is a loosely connected group of anonymous online pranksters who come together to work towards certain goals, such as the eradication of the Church of Scientology or blocking perceived threats to internet freedom. It is not clear if the same members of the group involved in attacks on Scientology participated in the attacks on government websites.
The attacks come as the government prepares to introduce its controversial mandatory internet filtering legislation and just after the Australian sex industry claimed porn films were being banned from sale in Australia because they featured small-breasted women and female ejaculation.
The Classification Board confirmed that pornography could be banned if participants simply "appeared" to be under age, while female ejaculation was considered a form of urination, which is banned under content classification guidelines.
In an email sent to media yesterday afternoon foreshadowing the attacks, Anonymous referred to the internet filtering legislation and the perceived pornography censorship.
"No government should have the right to refuse its citizens access to information solely because they perceive it to be 'unwanted'," the email read.
"The Australian government will learn that one does not mess with our porn. No one messes with our access to perfectly legal (or illegal) content for any reason."
In the flyer recruiting people for the attacks, Anonymous said the attacks on the websites would be followed by "a shitstorm of porn email, fax spam, black faxes and prank phone calls to government offices (emails/faxes should focus on small-breasted porn, cartoon porn and female ejaculation, the 3 types banned so far)".
Despite anticipating the attacks because of flyers that had previously been circulated, the Department of Parliamentary Services spokesman said there was little that could be done to shield the site from attack.
‘‘We were never going to be able to protect against that,'’ he said. ''Our objective has simply been to bring the site back into operation after the attack. They can’t last forever.''
The attack also extended to spam, with various email accounts within the department receiving bulk emails from an anonymous sender that featured pornographic images and text. The email addresses targeted appear to be those listed on the website.
The Department of Defence has been informed of the attack, which the parliamentary services spokesman said appeared to be based on the false idea that the bureaucracy was partisan.
‘‘We assume that they think we’re a part of executive government,’’ he said.
Speaking to the ABC's Hungry Beast this week for a segment on the government's internet filtering policy, which airs tonight, Senator Conroy laughed off the Anonymous threats. He said the hackers themselves described last year's attack on government websites as "shockingly disappointing".
Anti-censorship groups in Australia, including stopinternetcensorship.org and the System Administrators Guild of Australia, have condemned the attacks, saying it hurts their cause.
"It would be much more helpful for these people to put their efforts behind legitimate action to stop this ineffective and inefficient attempt at censorship by the Australian government," Stop Internet Censorship co-founder Nicholas Perkins said.
by ASHER MOSES February 10, 2010 - with Ari Sharp
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