By Zoe Kleinman, Technology Reporter, BBC News
12 February 2010
An activist group that temporarily blocked access to key Australian government websites plans to continue its cyber attacks, the BBC has learned.
The group, known as Anonymous, was protesting against the Australian government’s proposals to apply filters to the internet in the country.
A man claiming to be a representative of the group said that around 500 people were involved in the attack.
The method they are using is known as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS).
DDoS is illegal in many countries including the United Kingdom. There is no indication that the attack was carried out from within Britain. DDoS attacks typically call on machines in many different nations, making them hard to trace.
The sites were intermittently blocked on 10 and 11 February. The action has been condemned by various bodies including the Systems Administrators Guild of Australia (SAGE-AU) and Electronic Frontiers Australia.
‘All it takes is a few people to basically send junk traffic to their websites which is causing them to be offline,’ the man, calling himself Coldblood, told BBC News.
‘The people who are currently attacking (the government websites) are planning to keep doing it. It will probably keep happening until either they get bored or it gets sorted out.’
The sites are currently back online but the domains of individual politicians, including that of Stephen Conroy (minister for broadband, communications and the digital economy), were among those targeted.
Anonymous is protesting against Australia’s plan to apply a country-wide filter to block certain content in 2011.
In trials already carried out the technology behind the filter has proved to be 100% effective in preventing access to designated sites.
The banned sites would be selected by an independent classifications body guided by public complaints, Senator Conroy has said.
He said the aim of the filter is to make the internet a safer place for Australian children.
Speaking to the BBC, Coldblood said that the activists did not support the creation of illegal content but that banning it would not tackle the issue.
‘If something is illegal which is done on the internet the government should try and prosecute them,’ he said.
‘If they ban it it will just appear somewhere again. What they really need to do is go after the people who are making this content.’
The group consists of ‘a few thousand people’ based all over the world Coldblood said.
They staged cyber attacks on Iran following the election protests and have publicly protested against the Scientology movement.
This was sparked after the Church of Scientology requested the removal of a clip from YouTube featuring Hollywood actor Tom Cruise.
‘One of our main missions is against censorship on the internet,’ said Coldblood.
The group had not had any direct contact with the Australian government, he added.
SAGE-AU said the attack was ‘the wrong way to express disagreement with the proposed law.’
‘The impact of DOS attacks is frequently felt less by government agencies than by system administrators, many of them SAGE-AU members, who are responsible for managing websites and servers,’ continues a statement on its website.
YouTube in Australia
Senator Conroy has also contacted Google requesting that the company begins to filter YouTube content in the country.
Google says that while it complies with the laws of the individual countries in which it has a presence, it would only investigate and consider removing content after receiving a ‘valid legal request’ about something already posted on the site.
‘We first check that the request meets both the letter and spirit of the law, and we will seek to narrow it if the request is overly broad,’ said a spokesperson.
‘YouTube is a platform for free expression. We have clear policies about what is allowed and not allowed on the site.’