The Home Office’s website went offline as of Saturday night, with intermittent availability on Sunday, apparently as a result of an attack by the hacking group Anonymous.
The website reportedly became inaccessible as of Saturday evening at around 9 p.m. BST, with access remaining intermittent on Sunday.
Attempts to indicate the page timed out on Saturday and Sunday, indicating that a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack may have been used to overwhelm the site’s servers.
The incident follows warnings by Anonymous earlier in the week that it planned to disrupt the Home Office site over the weekend. A Twitter message posted on Wednesday warned of “an #Anonymous attack on the UK Home Office site” and promised further attacks.
“Expect a DDoS every Saturday on the UK government sites,” the message read.
Other messages indicated that the attack was protesting either the UK’s extradition laws or government plans to step up electronic surveillance.
One message said the attack was in support of three Britons facing extradition to the US: Gary McKinnon, who faces hacking charges; retired businessman Christopher Tappin, accused of arms dealing; and student Richard O’Dwyer, who faces trial for copyright infringement.
The message urged Anonymous’ supporters to “charge ya lazers”.
A later Twitter message indicated the attack was intended to protest “draconian surveillance proposals”.
The message, which followed the denial of service, appeared to claim credit for the attack.
It stated: “TANGO DOWN – http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk For your draconian surveillance proposals! Told you to #ExpectUs!”
A Home Office spokesman said on Saturday that government was aware of Anonymous’ threats.
“We are aware of some reports that the Home Office website may be the subject of an online protest,” the Home Office stated. “We have put all potential measures in place and will be monitoring the situation very closely. If a successful denial of service attempt does occur tonight, we will liaise with the technical team and update as necessary.”
On Sunday the Home Office told The Guardian: “We are aware of the situation and are working on it.”
Earlier in the week Anonymous claimed to have hacked into and defaced hundreds of Chinese national and local government and business websites, carrying messages decrying what the hackers say is Chinese government oppression, and with The Who song “Baba O’Reilly” playing in the background in many of the defacements.
In one Pastebin post, Anonymous lists the hundreds of sites it claims to have targeted.
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