Hackers wreak havoc on Malaysian gov't websites

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Hackers disrupted dozens of Malaysian state-linked websites Thursday, fulfilling a threat to batter the government's digital defenses in retaliation for a crackdown on entertainment piracy.

At least 91 websites, more than half of which were government-linked portals, suffered cyberattacks that persisted for several hours after midnight, Malaysia's telecommunications regulator said.

Officials indicated no confidential information was known to have been compromised. While some websites remained inaccessible by the time Malaysians started their workday, all but 15 had recovered by the evening.

The assaults began after a network of international hackers who call themselves "Anonymous" pledged to wreak havoc on Malaysia's government for curbing access to 10 websites often used to illegally download movies and music.

It was not clear whether the attacks were primarily orchestrated by Anonymous or independent hackers similarly minded to the loose-knit group. Anonymous has claimed online onslaughts in the past year against governments such as Spain to Egypt and companies including Visa, Mastercard and Paypal.

Malaysian authorities warned they hope to prosecute those behind the Internet disarray.

"The public is advised to report any information they may have regarding the identity of these hackers, as the act to disrupt network services is a serious offense, which is punishable by law," the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission said in a statement.

The hackers struck targets spanning from the government's official website to a key tourism portal for Borneo island. Others included the online links for Parliament, the police, fire department, treasury and culture ministry.

The Multimedia Commission said it was "making concerted efforts to mitigate the attacks around the clock," adding that there seemed to be "little impact on Malaysian users" so far.

Most of the affected websites offer public details, contact information and news updates about government departments, but do not provide essential services or hold sensitive or secret data.

Malaysia's Information Minister Rais Yatim has said the hackers' efforts were misguided because the government had the right to clamp down on copyright violations that undermine the entertainment industry.

The Anonymous group has repeatedly drawn the ire of governments worldwide. Earlier this month, Turkey detained 32 suspected computer hackers believed to be linked to Anonymous after the group disrupted a government website to protest Turkey's plans for Internet filters. Prosecutors are considering whether to charge some of them.

Anonymous has also backed the WikiLeaks organization and rallied supporters last year to flood the servers of Visa, Mastercard and Paypal with traffic, periodically blocking access to their sites. The companies had severed their links with WikiLeaks after it began publishing a massive trove of secret U.S. diplomatic memos.

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