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Hackers bring down government websites -

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Hackers bring down government websites

Sarah Dingle reported this story on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 12:18:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Attorney-General's Department has confirmed that the Australian Parliament's
website and other government sites were jammed this morning.

A group of cyber activists had warned that it would launch a concerted attack on government servers
and also jam government phone and fax lines with prank calls. But while the Government was aware of
the threat one cyber security expert says that any retaliation to block the hackers could create
massive problems for other internet users.

Sarah Dingle has our report.

SARAH DINGLE: The call went out online.

EXCERPT FROM STATEMENT: On February 10th 8am Australian time we will begin a DDoS (distributed
denial of service) of government servers. This will be quickly followed by porn emails, fax spam,
black faxes and prank phone calls to government offices.

SARAH DINGLE: "Operation Titstorm", a part of "Operation Internet Freedom", targeted Australian
government servers in an apparent protest against Australia's internet censorship laws. The attacks
were launched by a group called Anonymous.

Two days before the attack they issued a statement saying Australia's laws on internet censorship
were amongst the most restrictive in the Western world.

EXCERPT FROM STATEMENT: No one messes with our access to perfectly legal or illegal content for any
reason. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.

SARAH DINGLE: From 8am The World Today was unable to access the main homepage of the Australian
Parliament and also the homepage of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and Prime Minister Kevin

The Attorney-General's department says the Australian Parliament website was unavailable for 50
minutes, due to a distributed denial of service attack.

Alastair MacGibbon is a cyber security expert and former director of the Australian Government's
High Tech Crime Centre.

ALASTAIR MACGIBBON: It might be the equivalent of parking a truck across the driveway of a shopping
centre so that normal people can't drive in to do their business.

The tools that are used to conduct denial of service attacks are increasingly available and what
criminals use is things called botnets and these are groups of computers, home computers and
business computers that are compromised and controlled by that criminal and they will point
sometimes up to millions of computers against a target.

Those botnets are increasingly available, you can rent them from criminal websites, you can make
your own.

SARAH DINGLE: David Crafti is the president of the newly formed Pirate Party, which campaigns on
internet freedom issues. He says the Pirate Party doesn't condone the attacks but there are a
number of reasons why people may feel frustrated, such as the prospect of what's called a three
strikes law.

DAVID CRAFTI: Well we've narrowly avoided it in the iiNet case, and what that means is that on
three accusations to your internet service provider that someone on your connection has committed
copyright infringement, you could lose all access to use the internet for your entire household.

There's no R18+ rating for games so games are getting banned in Australia, there's new regulations
around what kind of pornography is legal in this country, there's no real voice for the public in
this and so they're getting frustrated and some elements of the people protesting are going to
eventually resort to more rebellious means.

There are botnets in the world which are run into the millions of computers. I'm guessing in this
case they probably used no more than a few hundred computers.

SARAH DINGLE: Alastair MacGibbon says compared to most Western nations the Australian Government is
well prepared for such attacks.

ALASTAIR MACGIBBON: It clearly cannot stop all attacks and I don't think we'd want a situation
where you could shut down entire networks to prevent an attack. Let's say the Australian Parliament
House website is taken off, the public website, that's one thing.

But if you shut down the internet pipes that the attacker is using then you're shutting down a
whole range of other legitimate commerce and legitimate government business so you need to be
careful how you respond to these.

SARAH DINGLE: Mr MacGibbon says blocking a website doesn't mean the data itself has been
compromised, only public access to it, and some websites are more important than others.

ALASTAIR MCGIBBON: We need to ask why would you create defences against something that, you know,
if it's down for a couple of hours, might be nice to have up all the time, but less relevant than
say some of those other more essential services.

SARAH DINGLE: The Department of Defence says it knew about the attacks beforehand and the
newly-opened Cyber Security Operations Centre is continuing to monitor the situation.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle reporting.