British government websites have suffered interruptions as supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange launched online attacks over his asylum case.
The British Home Office said its website had been “targeted by protesters on Monday night but only experienced very minor interruption to the service.” Though the website was disrupted, it had not been hacked and none of its other systems were affected, the office stated.
The Justice Department also said its website had been disrupted but that no private data were at risk, since the website was meant to provide public information and didn’t hold sensitive files.
"Measures put in place to keep the website running mean that some visitors may be unable to access the site intermittently,” it said.
Anonymous, a loose network of hackers and Internet freedom activists, claimed credit on Twitter for the attacks on the Home Office and Justice Department websites, along with several other British government sites that appeared to be functioning smoothly on Tuesday.
It billed the attacks as #OpFreeAssange, warning, “Gov. of UK Expect Us!”
He was granted asylum by Ecuador last week after holing up in its embassy for months, arguing that if he were sent to Sweden, he risked being sent to the United States and put to death for “political crimes.” The U.S. State Department said Assange was making “wild assertions” to distract from the allegations against him.
Britain says it will not give Assange safe passage out of the embassy to Ecuador because it is required to send him to Sweden, a stand that has upset supporters of Assange. It has also stoked anger by telling Ecuador that a little-known law could allow British authorities to enter its embassy to arrest Assange, an idea that Ecuador has vigorously protested.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: A supporter of Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks website, speaks to police officers Monday outside the Ecuadoran Embassy in London where Assange has been living since June. Credit: Oli Scarff / Getty Images