WikiLeaks 'hacktivists' declare war on the UK

Anonymous, the mercurial “hactivist” collective behind a series of pro-WikiLeaks cyber protests, has declared war on the British Government following the arrest of five people in the UK.

In a statement posted online the loosely affiliated organisation has called on supporters to hit government websites with distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, a relatively simple way of flooding a target website with so many requests for information that it is forced to shut down.

The tactic has been used by Anonymous activists with remarkable success over the past two months to temporarily disable financial and government websites that have been critical of Wikileaks in the wake of the publication of thousands of secret US embassy cables.

Recent victims have included government and law enforcement websites in Tunisia, Egypt, Zimbabwe and the Netherlands.

The online call to arms against the UK raises the spectre of co-ordinated cyber attacks on government online infrastructure and comes after police in both Britain and the United States have ramped up their investigations into the cyber protests.

Last week the Metropolitan Police arrested five people under the Computer Misuse Act in connection with pro-WikiLeaks Anonymous attacks. The five men, aged between 15 and 26, have been bailed pending further enquiries.

In the States FBI agents conducted 40 raids on suspected Anonymous supporters over the weekend as part of an ongoing investigation into recent DDoS attacks against Mastercard, Visa, PayPal and Amazon, all of whom have refused services to WikiLeaks following the cable leak.

Anonymous’ statement, which describes itself as "a serious declaration of war from yourself, the UK government, to us, Anonymous, the people” is also a defence of the use of DDoS attacks which it regards as an online equivalent of direct action as a form of protest.

“Arresting somebody for taking part in a DDoS attack is exactly like arresting somebody for attending a peaceful demonstration in their hometown,” the statement read. “Anonymous believes this right to peacefully protest is one of the fundamental pillars of any democracy and should not be restricted in any way. Moreover, we have noted that similar attacks have also been carried out against Wikileaks itself, yet so far, nobody has been arrested in connection with these attacks, nor are there even any signs of an investigation into this issue at all.”

Critics say DDoS attacks are simply a form of online vandalism that can cause major financial damage.

The threat has been judged serious enough for GovCertUK, the information security agency, to issue an advisory urging government websites to take precautions against DDoS attacks. “In light of this threat we would advise you to be vigilant against any new signs of DDoS activity you may encounter, and to notify us if such activity occurs,” the advisory warns.

In recent months the Government’s cyber security has been criticised in some quarters for being ill-prepared to deal with both hacking and mass cyber protests like DDoS.

In November a lone hacker from Romania successfully broke into the Royal Navy’s recruitment website and published details of current and former defence staff, including a former Royal Navy head.

Last year the Coalition also declined requests to upgrade government computers from using Internet Explorer 6, a decade old internet browser that has been abandoned by the French and German governments because of concerns over patches in its security.

Analysts say UK Government websites, which are not used to handling large spikes in traffic, could be vulnerable to DDoS attacks. Unlike hacking, which involves experts breaking into websites through vulnerabilities in their security system, DDoS attacks simply flood a network to breaking point making them difficult to mitigate against without specific protection measures.

“A website like Ticketmaster would be hard to hit with a DDoS because it is used to dealing with sudden influxes of traffic, for example when they put Take That tickets on sale,” explains Rik Ferguson, a cyber security expert at Trend Micro. “Government website are not built for that. To take down something like Amazon, which Anonymous tried and failed to do, you would need thousands of machines. But to flood a small or medium business, however, it can take as little as one hundred.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
The Queen and the letter sent to Charlie
Arts and Entertainment
Eurovision Song Contest 2015
EurovisionGoogle marks the 2015 show
Two lesbians hold hands at a gay pride parade.
peopleIrish journalist shares moving story on day of referendum
Arts and Entertainment
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
booksKathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
Liz Kendall played a key role in the introduction of the smoking ban
newsLiz Kendall: profile
Life and Style
techPatent specifies 'anthropomorphic device' to control media devices
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits
voicesAndrew Grice: Prime Minister can talk 'one nation Conservatism' but putting it into action will be tougher
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Senior Account Manager / SAM

£30 - 35k: Guru Careers: A Senior Account Manager / SAM is needed to join the ...

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager (EMEA) - City, London

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Manager...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?