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December 14, 2010

Pro-Wikileaks next focus could be UK govt websites, warns security adviser

Websites used to file tax returns or claim benefits could be the most vulnerable

By CBR Staff Writer

Pro-Wikileaks hackers could target UK government websites as their next focus, according to the UK national security adviser Sir Peter Ricketts.

Indicating that websites used to file tax returns or claim benefits could be the most vulnerable, Ricketts told civil servants that so far attacks from the Anonymous group of hacktivists have concentrated on firms perceived to be anti-Wikileaks, BBC News reported.

In a press briefing, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that Sir Peter had spoken to permanent secretaries about the security of government websites in the light of pro-Wikileaks attacks.

The spokesperson was quoted by BBC as saying that the priority would be websites that dealt with information that belonged to members of the public such as the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] and HMRC [Revenues and Customs].

Meanwhile, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been granted bail by a London court, but will remain in prison pending an appeal against the decision.

Reports have indicated that Web attacks in the UK could be likely because Mr Assange has appeared in court.

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Some have described the fight between Anonymous, Wikileaks and the US government as the "first infowar", but security experts have downplayed the conflict, the news agency said.

Centre for International and Strategic Studies specialist in cybersecurity James Lewis told BBC News that it was a demonstration, a protest, nothing more than political theatre – entertaining and influential but not war.

Agreeing to it, US Brookings Institution technology innovation centre research director Allan Friedman said that it was very much not a cyberwar, and he named it as a cyber mob.

"Mobs can be destructive but they tend not to have a long lasting impact," he added.

Distancing themselves from the attacks, Anonymous member Phill Midwinter told BBC News that many of them were law-abiding citizens of their respective countries around the world.

"We’re currently involved in more forward-thinking projects that help to spread our message of internet transparency in a more open and productive manner," he added.

"This includes a new venture dubbed Operation Leakspin, which aims to release details from the leaked cables that the mainstream media has overlooked and summarise them "into chunks that everyone can understand."

Meanwhile the US government is exploring a nearly century-old spy law as a way to prosecute Assange, according to BBC.

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