Hacking group Anonymous says it has taken at least ten Australian government websites offline in a series of continuing attacks over proposed changes to privacy laws.
The Australian arm of the group has warned it will continue the attacks on “.gov.au” sites until any plans to force ISPs to store user data and make it further available to security services are shelved.
The attacks started after Prime Minister Julia Gillard answered policy questions via webcam in an online Google+ Hangout session on Saturday but the sites targeted so far are all run by the Queensland State Government.
Anonymous Australia told news.com.au the attacks were brought forward to coincide with Ms Gillard’s online Q and A session and it had raised the privacy concerns with the PM earlier on a Twitter hashtag.
Anonymous said the sites were specifically chosen because the group had “proof” that small to medium businesses, education departments, student and personal accounts had been tracked by the State Government.
“The Australian Government is attempting to strip away its citizens’ internet rights by forcing them to surrender passwords and internet usage data,” Anonymous Australia said via email.
“Unless the Government starts acting in the best interest of its people, it will continue to bring the noise.”
The hackers said the attacks were in response to changes being discussed by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).
The proposed security expansions would mean everything from social networking to emails would be monitored and stored for up to two years, and intelligence agencies would be given increased access to sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“We no longer know about many of the activities of our governments while our governments have the means to accumulate unprecedented vast banks of data about us,” Anonymous Australia said.
“Whilst our own rights to privacy dwindle, corporate rights to commercial confidentiality and intellectual property skyrocket.
“We plan to continue targeting .gov.au websites until PJCIS is rejected.”
The group said its actions were also in response to the rejection of Julian Assange’s requests to be extradited as an Australian citizen, and the jailing of convicted whistleblower Allan Kessing, a former customs official at Sydney Airport.
Anonymous also reiterated it was behind the attacks on the Dahabshiil bank in the Middle East, which it accuses of funding terrorism. Dahabshiil has said it has evidence Anonymous is not behind the attacks.
A Department of Defence spokesperson said the department was aware of the reports of Australian attacks but did not publicly comment or discuss details of cyber incidents.
“Defence, through the Cyber Security Operations Centre, works with affected government agencies, as required, to help mitigate threats to information security,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said it was critical Australia’s national security capability could keep up with technology and global security.
“We must always stay a step ahead of terrorists, cyber criminals and organised criminals who threaten our national security,” the spokesperson said.
“At the same time, we need to have the right checks and balances to ensure that those who enforce our national security laws do so responsibly.
“Interested parties must avoid reacting to these proposals with hysteria and should instead contribute to the comprehensive review which the PJCIS has commenced.”
News.com.au is seeking comment from the Queensland Premier’s Office.
Anonymous today said the websites were back up and running but the list included: