Japan was on Wednesday probing attacks on government Web sites after hacker collective Anonymous lashed out at beefed-up laws on illegal downloads and warned of more to come.
A site purporting to speak for the group said newly enacted laws that could mean jail for anyone downloading copyrighted music and movies “will result in scores of unnecessary prison sentences to numerous innocent citizens.”
The finance ministry’s Web site came under attack on Tuesday, with a number of Web pages defaced, ministry official Takanari Horino said, adding that the Web sites of the supreme court and intellectual property high court were down for a short time overnight.
“We are investigating where the illegal item came from,” the official said, referring to an unauthorized link posted to the ministry site.
“We are aware of the Anonymous statement referring to the new copyright law, but we don’t know at this point if the cyberattacks are linked to the group,” he said.
Private broadcaster TBS said police had begun an investigation into the attacks and were interviewing ministry officials.
The finance ministry spokesman said the Web site of the Kasumigaura branch of the land ministry was also briefly attacked, with commentators on the popular 2channel online forum suggesting its phonetic similarity to Kasumigaseki, the seat of Japanese bureaucracy, may have led to its targeting.
The anonpr.net Web site said laws passed by both houses of Japan’s parliament last week would do “little to solve the underlying problem of legitimate copyright infringement.
“The content industry is now pushing ISPs in Japan to implement surveillance technology that will spy on ... every single Internet user in Japan,” it said. “This would be an unprecedented approach and severely reduce the amount of privacy law abiding citizens should have in a free society.”
The statement also warned the government and country’s Recording Industry Association to “expect us the same way we have come to expect you in violating our basic rights to privacy and to an open Internet.”
A Wednesday post on Twitter by user @op_japan claiming to speak for Anonymous said: “Good morning #japan. Expect more from us today! #anonymous #opjapan #anonfamily #freeanons.”
It gave no further details.
A spokeswoman for the Recording Industry Association said on Wednesday no attacks on its Web site had been recorded, but that it was investigating the issue.
The new copyright law stipulates that “downloading of copyrighted works knowing that they are not free and that it is illegal” will lead to a prison sentence of up to two years, or a fine of up to ￥2 million (US$25,300), or both.
Some 4.36 billion files, including music and movies, were illegally downloaded in Japan in 2010, 10 times the number of legally downloaded music files, the association said.
Anonymous is a “hacker-activist” network that has claimed online attacks on sites ranging from the Vatican to the Los Angeles Police Canine Association, but is increasingly the target of police who have arrested dozens of members.