Sun, Jan 02, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Zimbabwean government sites targeted by hackers

The Guardian, Johannesburg

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has become the latest victim of online attacks by supporters of WikiLeaks, it was claimed on Friday.

Cyber activists said they had brought down government Web sites after Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, sued a newspaper for publishing a WikiLeaks cable that linked her with the alleged trade in illicit diamonds.

The Zimbabwean government Web site was unavailable on Firday, while the finance ministry Web site displayed a message saying it was under maintenance.

Anonymous, a loose-knit group that has vowed to paralyze sites that act against WikiLeaks, said on its Web site: “We are targeting Mugabe and his regime in the Zanu-PF who have outlawed the free press and threaten to sue anyone publishing WikiLeaks.”

Grace Mugabe has launched a defamation suit against Zimbabwe’s Standard newspaper for US$15 million for publishing details released by WikiLeaks suggesting that she had gained “tremendous profits” from the trade in illicit diamonds.

The offending article quotes from a US embassy cable that alleged she was among a group of elite Zimbabweans making “several hundred thousand dollars a month” from the sale of illegal stones mined in the politically sensitive Marange district. Grace Mugabe denies the allegations.

Zimbabwe’s attorney general has formed a commission to investigate the WikiLeaks cables with a view to bring charges of treason against anyone found to be colluding with “aggressive” foreign governments. This has been seen as a thinly veiled attempt to target Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Anonymous, a 1,000-strong group of activists, rallied on behalf of WikiLeaks after Amazon and other companies terminated business services with the Web site. It launched Operation Payback to give firms deemed hostile to WikiLeaks a “black eye.”

The Web sites of Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and the company that hosted WikiLeaks were all brought down after severing ties with the whistleblowing site.

Anonymous’s so-called “distributed denial of service” attacks bring down sites by overpowering them with repeated requests to load.

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