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Hackers take down Home Office website, more attacks coming

Hacktivist group Anonymous has claimed responsibility for taking down the Home Office site, and says it's just getting started…

If you clicked on the Home Office website last night or early this morning, you would've seen the message: "Due to a high volume of traffic this page is currently unavailable."

Well it wasn't a lot of people checking out government advice on eating Easter eggs. Rather, it was those hacktivists Anonymous executing a cyber attack. The group wrote on its Twitter feed: "TANGO DOWN -- For all your draconian surveillance proposals! Told you to #ExpectUs!" It's promising similar attacks every weekend, the BBC reports.

The hashtag refers to the fact that the attack had been mentioned days earliers. Anonymous is thought to have used a distributed denial-of-service attack, which basically involves a huge number of computers overloading a website with requests. Great for traffic stats, not so great if you want to keep the site up and running. It's considered one of the least complicated methods of hacking, so it doesn't bode well if the Home Office can't protect against something so simple. Not to mention something that it was warned about.

One Anonymous tweet said it was in response to the government's proposed digital surveillance plans, but another claimed it was a protest against three people facing extradition on hacking charges.

A tweet on 4 April from Anonymous read: "EXPECT a DDOS (distributed denial-of-service attack) every Saturday on the UK Government sites." So it looks like there are more on the way. Claims that the 10 Downing Street website had been targeted were dismissed by a Downing Street spokesman. The Home Office site was down from 9pm to around 5am this morning.

A Home Office statement put out just before the attack read: "We are aware of some reports that the Home Office website may be the subject of an online protest. We have put all potential measures in place and will be monitoring the situation very closely. If a successful denial of service attempt does occur tonight, we will liaise with the technical team and update as necessary." During the hack, a spokesperson told the Guardian: "We are aware of the situation and are working on it."

What do you make of it? And what can the government do to safeguard itself? Let me know in the comments below, or on Facebook.