TechWeekEurope learns an Anonymous splinter group took down Theresa May’s website, whilst targeting the ICO and the Supreme Court
Home secretary Theresa May saw her website taken down last night, in what TechWeekEurope understands was part of a widespread distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign carried out by an Anonymous splinter group this weekend.
May’s website (tmay.co.uk) was down from around 9pm last night until approximately 10am this morning, it is believed.
Websites of the Supreme Court and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) were down for large chunks of Sunday afternoon and evening too, although neither would confirm whether their sites were out of action due to a DDoS.
“We believe the website was targeted with a distributed denial of service. Mrs May treats threats of disruption to her website very seriously,” a spokesman for Theresa May said.
“Access to the ICO website was not possible yesterday afternoon,” an ICO spokesperson said. “We provide a public facing website which contains no sensitive information.”
Agent Smith talks…
The “voice” of a UK-based Anonymous group calling itself the ATeam told TechWeekEurope it had targeted and successfully taken down all three sites as part of the campaign against the UK’s attitude to extradition.
Talking over Skype, the spokesperson, going by the name of Winston Smith, said the attack on the Theresa May website was part of OpTrialAtHome, which is protesting against the UK’s extradition treaty with the US. In particular, Smith pointed to the case of Gary Mckinnon, who remains in limbo over whether he will be extradited to the US on hacking charges.
The government has come under fire for leniency to the US. The debate over the extradition treaty was given a fresh lease of life in March, when the home secretary approved the extradition of British student Richard O’Dwyer, who is facing charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal infringement of copyright for his role in the TV Shack website.
“The Computer Misuse Act should be applied at the location of the crime, not at the alleged source,” he said. “The US-UK judiciary change source and location application of the law when it suits them. That was one aspect of the protest”
As for the ICO, the ATeam claimed it hit the data protection regulator because of a “failure to protect privacy.” “The ICO are not equiped, nor have the motivation to ensure that we are protected,” Smith said.
The hacktivist collective is also protesting the Leveson Inquiry, which it believes has not worked effectively in punishing the media for hacking offences. Smith said Leveson was a “complete failure”.
Smith, who claimed to be a former investment banker, said the ATeam, also known as the Anonymous Team, consisted of 10 people who were “the best in the world.” The group does not directly work with other Anonymous cells.
He said the average age of the group was around 40, making it different from the other Anonymous groups, which consist largely of “children” who “cause more harm than good” and have “no understanding of what they are doing”.
“There are many anons who are actual extremists hiding behind the mask,” Smith added. “We believe the mask has to come off.”
Smith said another key protest will focus on the draft Communications Data Bill, which was announced in the Queen’s Speech last week. Via a source within government, TechWeekEurope exclusively revealed the Coalition was already believed to be backing away from one of the key aspects of the bill – the black boxes in which citizens’ comms data would be stored within ISPs.
In the coming weeks, the ATeam hopes to take down more websites, including those of the Leveson Inquiry, the Home Office and the Supreme Court.
Smith and Anonymous have been linked with previous hits on the Home Office websites, as well as attempts on GCHQ.
Anonymous has had another busy year. Earlier this month, the group took responsibility for hits on ISPs TalkTalk and Virgin in protest at the Pirate Bay ban they were forced to impose. However, the Pirate Bay posted a public notice denouncing the use of DDoS as a protest tool.
UPDATE: This afternoon, the ICO website has been experiencing further problems, with its website inaccessible at the time of publication. The same Anonymous team told TechWeekEurope it had hit the watchdog’s site, whilst the ICO said it was looking into the matter.
“We are reviewing the underlying causes for the website being down with the providers of our web hosting,” an ICO spokesperson said.
Smith said the group had targeted the ICO as part of a protest against the Leveson Inquiry. “The information commissioner has failed to address the multiple data protection breaches of citizens by the media,” he added.
Think you’re a security pro? Try our quiz!