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Port of London Authority hit by ‘politically motivated’ cyberattack

DDoS attack knocks Port Authority's website offline. It could be politically motivated, analysts say.

By Claudia Glover

The Port of London Authority (PLA) fell victim to a cyberattack last night which has knocked its website offline. The attack, thought to have been carried out by the Altahrea Team hacking gang, appears to be politically motivated, according to security researchers.

The Port of London Authority has fallen victim to a cyberattack. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Part of the PLA’s online infrastructure was knocked offline by the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack last night. The Port Authority website continues to be down at the time of writing.

The PLA told Tech Monitor: “We are investigating a ‘Distributed Denial of Service’ attack on our website,” but says its operational systems are running as normal.

A self-funded public trust that governs the Port of London, the PLA’s responsibility extends over the Tideway of the River Thames down into Kent and Essex. It oversees the movement of more than 200,000 commercial and leisure vessels each year.

According to Israeli security company Check Point, “an infamous group, suspected to be operated by Iran, or Iraqis that support Iran, has posted on Telegram that it launched a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on the Port of London’s website.” The post went up on the group’s Telegram channel at around 8pm last night.

Port of London Authority cyberattack: who is Altahrea Team?

The Altahrea Team has made its name attacking public sector organisations and media companies around the world. Last month the gang struck Turkish media outlet Anadolu Agency and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s website.

The gang has also been active in Israel. “This group is known for multiple DDoS attacks on Israeli targets like the Jpost, Israeli 9 channel, the Israeli port authority, and have threatened to attack [stock exchange] Nasdaq before,” Check Point’s report says. “These ‘loud’ attacks seem to be politically motivated, aimed at making noise rather than damage, clarify the researchers, hence why they use DDoS as a method, which is simple but very disruptive and visible,” it says.

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The gang has stated that it is acting in retaliation against “oppressors around the world,” according to its Telegram channel. A post after its alleged attack on the Nasdaq reads: “This attack is in response to the deaths of Iraqi children caused by US economic sanctions. This attack is for every Iranian family that has been deprived of food as a result of the United States’ criminal policies. This attack is for the sake of Syrian And Yemeni children killed in the United States for oil.”

Read more: Fibre-optic cables in France dug up and cut in ‘act of sabotage’

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