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February 03, 2011

Hackers Target Egyptian Government Websites, Forcing Them Offline

Just a short time after Egyptian officials restored Internet service, hackers targeted government websites on Wednesday – causing them to go offline, according to a report from the Associated Press.

The attacks were apparently coordinated by the loosely-organized group calling itself "Anonymous," The AP said.

Anonymous allegedly notified hackers to target websites belonging to the Egyptian Ministry of Information and the National Democratic Party, the ruling party in Egypt.

Anonymous took responsibility for shutting down the Ministry of Information’s site, according to a Twitter post monitored by The AP.

Anonymous said it took the action to support the Egyptian protesters who are now taking part in a revolt. Most of the protestors on the streets of Cairo are opposed to the current government. Violent clashes have been erupting in Cairo between mobs opposed to the current government and those who are supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.

The AP reports the Egyptian government websites are relatively easy to shut down for the hackers.

The Egyptian government shut down Internet service on Friday, but it was brought back on Wednesday morning. Shutting down the service was a way for the government to minimize the spread of information by the anti-government protestors, who have called for Mubarak to step down immediately, rather than wait for an election later this year.

The AP reports that a member of Anonymous, who spoke anonymously, claimed the number of participants in the targeted attacks against the Egyptian sites was lower than those taking part in similar attacks against corporate sites in December. It is believed that thousands of hackers targeted MasterCard.com, Visa.com and other sites in December because the companies stopped transferring money to the embattled WikiLeaks site. WikiLeaks has been publishing classified diplomatic cables leading to the embarrassment of world leaders, as well as putting U.S. policies and operatives’ lives at risk.

Many of the hackers use a program called “Low Orbit Ion Cannon.” The program sends a lot of “fake traffic” to a website, causing it to fail, the AP said.

Anonymous has targeted other government websites. TMCnet reported last month hackers affiliated with the group allegedly targeted websites operated by the government of Tunisia and they were forced offline.

The BBC reported Anonymous targeted websites operated by the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and the Tunisian Stock Exchange. The same group also targeted websites operated by the government of Zimbabwe, TMCnet said.

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Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf
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