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Tunisian Phishing Draws Anonymous's Ire

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, January 6 2011

The first sign that something was, indeed, truly fishy: HTTPS, the secure Internet protocol, stopped working. Tunisia is in the midst of a season of strikes and protests, and the Tunisian government has allegedly gone on an online offensive against that country's activists -- stealing their passwords to sites like Facebook and Gmail, and otherwise messing in their digital business. Meanwhile, Anonymous, the global hacking collection whom you might know from their recent work taking down Wikileaks' supposed enemies, was not pleased with any of it. Al Jazeera's Yasmine Ryan reports:

The group's DDoS attacks, which began on Sunday night, local time, succeeded in taking at least eight websites, including those for the president, prime minister, the ministry of industry, the ministry of foreign affairs, and the stock exchange.

The web site of the government internet agency - known by Tunisian web dissidents ironically as "Ammar 404", or "Page not found" for its oversight of censorship operations - was also targeted.

One "Anon," as those who participate in Anonymous' activities are sometimes known, told Ryan that Tunisia came onto the radar of the collective because of anti-Wikileaks filtering, but stayed there because of what seems to be the government's energetic censoring initiative.

More than ever, perhaps, what Anonymous does with its distributed-denial-of-service attacks is a two-pronged approach. Taking down whatever the offending website is, well that's one thing. But with the high-profile accorded Anonymous in the wake of Wikileaks, there's a powerful public relations component, too. "[Tunisian exile and censorship monitor Sami ben Gharbia] said Monday's cyber attack probably will not affect protests 'on the ground,'" writes Ryan, "but may serve as a ' good story' to attract the mainstream media and embolden online activists in Tunisia."