Belfast Telegraph

Government websites hit by attacks

Two Government websites were forced offline for several hours overnight in co-ordinated cyber attacks.

The Department of Finance was shut from 11.20pm on Tuesday after a Twitter account, apparently linked to the Anonymous activist movement, urged associates and supporters to bombard the web page.

The Government has described the incident as a distributed denial of service, where huge volumes of internet traffic were directed to the websites.

Services on the Department of Justice website were also interfered with.

The attacks are believed to be co-ordinated and a response to the looming reform of copyright laws, dubbed the Irish Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), which is due to be published in the coming days.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said: "This was not an attempt to extract information from the website but was instead an attempt to stop the service. There seems to be no damage done to the website. However, a review of the website is being conducted this morning.

"The situation continues to be monitored by the Department of Justice and the Department of Communications. The Government is aware of the potential threat of this type of cyber attack and the Department of Communications is also readying a whole of Government response to this threat."

A Department of Finance spokesman said IT staff were alerted to the threat of an unusually high flow of traffic to the website and, as a failsafe, shut the website down. He said there was no hacking attempt because no one gained access to the site, adding it was merely an attempt to disrupt service.

A Twitter account called Anonymous Sweden claimed responsibility for the attack. It said in a tweet that the attack was carried out in protest against planned new copyright legislation in Ireland. A second named AnonOps also declared the justice website closed before publishing a link to a web page carrying a list of every TD's email address.

Some 29,000 signatories have backed an online petition against plans to allow music publishers to take internet service providers to court to protect their material from file-sharing and online piracy.

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