Analysis The Home Office website is back online following a weekend of disruptive denial-of-service attacks by Anonymous.
The hacktivist collective also launched traffic-flooding assaults against the official website of the UK prime minister, number10.gov.uk, and the UK's Ministry of Justice as part of a protest against the UK's controversial extradition laws. The DDoS attacks, launched during #opTrialAtHome on Saturday night, were motivated by the UK government's treatment of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, Christopher Harold Tappin andTVShack's Richard O'Dwyer in controversial extradition cases, the hacktivists claimed on their official Twitter feed.
"#OpTrialAtHome, because selling your citizens to foreigner is not acceptable! We are #Anonymous, We do not forget, We do not forgive. #UK," Anon_Central tweeted.
In a statement, the Home Office confirmed the attack but downplayed its significance.
The Home Office website was the subject of on online protest last night [Saturday]. This is a public facing website and no sensitive information is held on it.
There is no indication that the site was hacked and other Home Office systems were not affected.
Further attacks against UK government sites might be expected. "#OpTrialAtHome EXPECT US...!!! Every Saturday as this is just the beginning KEEP FIRING," UKAnonymous2012 tweeted. The account named GCHQ as a target for follow-up attacks on 14 April, this time protesting a proposed tightening of internet surveillance regulations.
Denial-of-service attacks are illegal, and participation in such attacks carries the risk of criminal prosecution, net security firm Sophos adds. One formerly favoured tool among hacktivists, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, exposed the IP addresses of participants in packet-flooding attacks, as several accused hackers have learned to their cost.
Janis Sharp, Gary McKinnon's mum, urged net users not to become involved in hacktivist protests, however strong their feelings might be.
"I agree with the Home Office that it was a huge online protest. On Twitter Anonymous said it was in support of Gary, Richard O'Dwyer and Chris Tappin and against extradition, and was pro [the idea of] people who were in the UK during their alleged crime being tried in the UK ... I obviously agree with the sentiments," Sharp told El Reg
"As these sorts of protests causing a system to overload can come from people from all over the World joining in, they're difficult if not virtually impossible to stop.
"However I don't want other people – who are possibly young and/or vulnerable – possibly getting prosecuted or even extradited, and I definitely do not want other families going through what we have been through and are still going through. It's difficult to explain just how hard it's been over these past 10 years and everyone should realise the possible consequences they and their families could be facing."
The availability of accessible attack tools is enabling anyone with an internet connection to carry out DDoS attacks, DDoS mitigation specialists Arbor Networks warns. The security tools firm says that the perception that organisations are powerless to defend themselves against a concerted denial-of-service attack is actually quite wide of the mark. "Best practice dictates organisations have both on-premise protection as well as cloud-based protection from a service provider," it advises. ®