Political hackers on the increase in Britain

The number of defacements affecting UK government Web sites increased nearly fourfold in the UK last year

Hacking attacks on political Web sites more than tripled in the UK during 2001, despite a sharp fall in the number of defacements around 11 September.

The UK government Web address .gov.uk experienced a 378 percent increase in defacements last year, rising from nine incidents in 2000 to 43 in 2001, according to a report from security consultant mi2g. The number of Web sites that were hacked globally rose fourfold in the same period, from 7629 attacks in 2000 to 30,388 last year.

There was a marked decrease in global Web site defacements following the 11 September terrorist attacks, according to mi2g's figures, which are gathered by consultants and software robots monitoring for Web site defacement in real time across the globe. In May 2001, 3,853 Internet defacements were reported worldwide, while in September this figure dropped to 815.

"Global Web site defacement is indicative of the general conflicts prevalent in the physical world," said DK Matai, chairman of mi2g. "2002 may be a year in which politically motivated attacks, both physical and electronic, could complement strikes from disgruntled employees and organised crime."

Worst hit was the global .com domain name, which was the target for nearly 30 percent of all Web defacements in 2001. The number of attacks rose from 8,736 in 2000 to 30,388 in 2001. Reported incidents included US Web sites, as well as UK organisations using the non-geography-specific domain name. The UK domain .org.uk rose from 5 attacks to 25 in the last year, and the number of incidents affecting the commercial .co.uk domain increased by 181 percent.

Anticapitalist protest, criminal activities and anti-NATO sentiment were the main factors motivating the UK attacks, according to mi2g. US government sites were also the target of hackers last year, with the .gov domain experiencing a 37 percent increase in Web site defacements. The US military Web address, .mil, also reported a 128 percent increase in attacks by hackers.

For all security-related news, including updates on the latest viruses, hacking exploits and patches, check out ZDNet UK's Viruses and Hacking News Section.

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