Hackers crash Home Office website in row over snooping

Student Richard O'Dwyer
Student Richard O'Dwyer
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A COMPUTER hacking group has claimed responsibility for a cyber attack which crashed the Home Office website over the weekend, in an apparent protest against Government extradition and surveillance policies.

Web users were unable to fully access the department’s homepage for several hours with a message on the site saying the page was currently unavailable “due to a high volume of traffic”.

Anonymous, a loosely organised group of computer hackers who famously hacked the Vatican’s website last month, claimed responsibility on the social networking site Twitter.

One message claiming to be from the group said the action was “for your draconian surveillance proposals”, while another said it was in protest at the UK’s controversial extradition treaty with America. It read: “You should not give UK citizens to foreign countries without evidence. If an offence happened in the UK, so should the trial.”

There were also claims on Twitter that the group had disrupted the websites of the Ministry of Justice and Number 10.

After the Home Office website was disrupted, the department said it had been “aware of some reports that the Home Office website may be the subject of an online protest” and had “put all potential measures in place”.

It believed the site may have been hit by a denial of service attack, which prevents a website from functioning properly, sometimes by swamping it with more traffic than it can handle.

The apparent attack came after it emerged that next month’s Queen’s Speech will include plans for a Bill that will see internet companies required to allow the Government to examine on demand, and without a warrant, any phone call made, text message and email sent, as well as any website accessed.

Ministers have faced a backlash over the plans, with senior MPs from both coalition parties, as well as civil liberties groups, lining up to denounce it.

Meanwhile, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has called for an overhaul to the extradition arrangements between the UK and the United States to restore “public faith”. Many critics believe it is easier to extradite a British citizen to the US than vice-versa.

Sheffield Hallam University undergraduate Richard O’Dwyer, 23, of Chesterfield, is fighting extradition after being accused of breaking US copyright in the UK.