LONDON, April 8 A British government website was
disrupted on Sunday by a suspected attack by activist hacker
group Anonymous, whose previous high-profile targets have
included the Vatican.
The website of Britain's Home Office, or interior ministry,
(homeoffice.gov.uk) was out of action for several hours
overnight and problems continued on Sunday, with visitors
finding the message "page not found".
"We are aware of the online protests," a Home Office
spokeswoman said, declining further comment.
Twitter messages purporting to be from Anonymous said the
group was behind the distributed denial-of-service attack, in
which hackers flood a website with requests for information,
making it unavailable to legitimate users.
The messages warned there would be further attacks on
British government websites every Saturday.
Twitter messages suggested a variety of motives for the
attack, including the British government's plans to boost
digital surveillance powers and Britain's extradition treaty
with the United States.
Campaigners argue the extradition rules are lopsided in
Washington's favour. The most high-profile case is that of
British computer hacker Gary McKinnon, who was arrested in 2002
after allegedly hacking into U.S. security systems including the
Pentagon and who is still fighting extradition.
Government minister Grant Shapps said the attack on the Home
Office website was "concerning". The opposition Labour Party's
business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, also expressed worry, telling
the BBC that "we're talking about community safety issues here".
Anonymous and fellow group LulzSec have carried out a number
of high-profile hacking actions against companies and
institutions including the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,
Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency, Japan's Sony Corp
and Mexican government websites.
The Italian branch of Anonymous took down the Vatican's
website in March, while in February, British police said they
were investigating reports that Anonymous had hacked into a
conference call between FBI agents and London detectives to
discuss action they were taking against hacking.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)