June 16, 2011 9:54 am

Hackers claim CIA website disruption

Lulzsec, a hacker group which has gained rapid notoriety in recent weeks for attacks on Sony, Nintendo and Australian broadcaster PBS, has added the US government to its list of targets. 

Via its Twitter account, which has quickly attracted thousands of followers, Lulzsec claimed credit for taking CIA.gov and parts of the Senate website offline for a few hours. Although the sites were intermittently unavailable, it is difficult to prove whether that was due to technical errors or denial of service attacks, whereby banks of rogue computers overwhelm a site with traffic.

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No evidence suggested that the attackers managed to penetrate the CIA’s internal systems or steal any information. But even if the disruption was brief and superficial, it marks an escalation of Lulzsec’s wide-ranging campaign.  

Tango down - cia.gov - for the lulz,” wrote Lulzsec on Wednesday evening. 

“Lulz” is a derivation of “laugh out loud” abbreviation, “LOL”. Lulzsec’s objective appears to be to demonstrate the weakness of the general standard of internet security, as well as taking out targets for its own entertainment. Other recent victims include EVEOnline, an internet-based multiplayer game, and InfraGard, a security company that is affiliated with the FBI.  

The CIA did not make any statement in response to the disruption or the claims.

The gang is made up of former senior members of Anonymous, the amorphous cyber-activist group, according to one person familiar with members of both and observations of a Lulzsec chatroom by the Financial Times.  

Anonymous remains active, in spite of a recent wave of arrests in Spain and Turkey. A split within Anonymous opened up following its high-profile attack on Sony’s PlayStation Network, which put millions of gamers’ financial details at risk and left the entertainment service offline for weeks.

Since then, Anonymous has largely targeted political targets, including government websites in repressive Middle Eastern regimes. Overnight Anonymous claimed credit for attacks on dozens of Malaysian websites in protest at internet and media censorship in the country. 

LulzSec’s attack on the CIA was highlighted by WikiLeaks, the whistleblowing site to whom Anonymous supporters have previously rallied. “WikiLeaks supporters, LulzSec, take down CIA who has task force into WikiLeaks,” the site said through its official Twitter feed. 

Lulzsec’s internet postings have revealed a more humorous and publicity-seeking approach, ranging from a hip-hop track about breaking into websites and a “hack request” phone line, to surreal Twitter ramblings. 

“The headstand of reality balances upon our lizard rebellion and spins openly over the vast plains of blackened human ignorance,” Lulzsec said on Twitter on Wednesday night. 

“Lulz Security, where the entertainment is always at your expense, whether you realize it or not.”

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