Cahal Milmo and Nigel Morris
Dec 14, 2010
Whitehall is preparing for a crippling attack on government websites as evidence mounts that the backlash against the arrest of the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is rapidly growing into a mass movement that aims to cause widespread disruption on the internet.
Extra security measures have been added to a host of government web services, in particular those used to claim benefits or provide tax information, after Sir Peter Ricketts, the national security adviser, warned permanent secretaries across all departments that “hacktivists” who last week targeted the sites of companies such as MasterCard and PayPal could switch their focus to Britain.
Downing Street officials confirmed they are preparing for a court appearance today by Mr Assange, who remains in custody following his arrest on sex allegations at the request of the Swedish authorities, to be used by hackers as an excuse to switch their focus to key cyber infrastructure such as the website of HM Revenue and Customs. Members of the online collective Anonymous have already signalled their willingness to attack UK targets if Mr Assange – who denies the claims and whose lawyers will today apply for bail – is extradited to Sweden.
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