Angry pro-Wikileaks hackers may target British websites

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

LONDON - Pro-Wikileaks hackers are likely to target British websites in retaliation for the arrest of Julian Assange, the whistleblower site’s editor, a senior security official has warned.

Britain’s National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts told senior civil servants that Whitehall should be prepared to come under fire from “hacktivists” outraged by Assange’s detention in Britain.

A string of companies have been attacked by Anonymous, an online network, after withdrawing support for WikiLeaks, in response to legal concerns over its release of secret diplomatic cables.

The credit card companies MasterCard and Visa both had their websites brought down by the group last week while PayPal, the online payment company, and Amazon, the online retailer, were also targeted, the Telegraph reported.

The “distributed denial of service” attacks - which bombard websites with bogus visits - came after the financial companies blocked donations to WikiLeaks and Amazon evicted it from its server space.

Websites belonging to the government in Sweden, to which Assange faces deportation over allegations of rape and sexual molestation, and the lawyers of his alleged victims, were also crippled by attacks.

Assange denies the allegations. Having been denied bail, he is being held in a prison in London.

Lawyers for Assange will make a second application for bail at a court hearing Tuesday. If bail is granted, and the prosecution appeals against this, he is likely to be remanded until a hearing is heard on the appeal, which is likely to be within 48 hours.

During a briefing Monday, the prime minister’s spokesman said that at the end of last week, Sir Peter advised the heads of government departments on how to guard against similar attacks.

He said there was particular concern about sites belonging to the Department for Work and Pensions, which holds information on benefits claimants, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), which has data on all taxpayers.

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