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Screen-grab of Enda Kenny's website hacked Photo by: Google Images

Hacker group Anonymous forces Irish government sites offline over Internet privacy act

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Screen-grab of Enda Kenny's website hacked Photo by: Google Images

Anonymous Sweden has claimed responsibility on Twitter for the over-night shutdown of two Irish government websites. The hacking was used in protest of new copyright legislation that is being considered by Ireland.

The Irish Independent reports that the attacks on the several government websites were coordinated by several hacker groups in protest of the Irish Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the same kind of legislation that forced a blackout of Wikipedia last week.

The looming legislation comes in response to a loophole found after a 2010 High Court ruling. The case, brought about by EMI against broadband supplier UPC, focused on the practice of illegal downloading, also known as pirating.

The SOPA legislation will grant music and entertainment companies control over what can and cannot be shared over the Internet, a move that many feel would quickly become censorship.

The Independent reports that a petition against the new legislation has already garnered 29,000 signatures.

Martin Ferris, communications spokesman for Sinn Fein, said of the impending legislation, “There is understandable fear among both commercial and private users of the Internet that this will leave the door open to actions that would severely restrict access to information if copyright holders can secure orders preventing it being made available.”

"That would not only represent a significant attack on individual freedom but also a threat to a healthy sector of the Irish economy which has attracted major international players to locate here."
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Three Twitter accounts have been linked to the hacking that occurred. @AnonOps declared the justice website closed late Tuesday night before publishing a list of every TD’s email address.

YourAnonNews declared the finance website shut down, and published a list of every TD’s phone number.

While the organizations tweeted responsibility for the shut-down of the justice and finance websites, they denied responsibility for attacks on other sites Blue Blindfold anti-human trafficking site and the Freedom of Information site.

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.”

She added “There seems to be no damage done to the website. However, a review of the website is being conducted this morning.”

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said that IT staff were alerted to the hacking attempt by the “inordinate amount of traffic and data” arriving to the site, and as a “failsafe,” shut the site down.

"It wasn't a hacking-in that a hacker needs to get into the website,” said the Department of Finance spokesman. “We would suspect that somebody was trying to create some sort of mischief, but IT were alerted to the irregular flow of traffic and shut it down themselves."

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