LulzSec launches anti-government crusade, takes down U.K. police site

Attacks flourish because organizations haven't done security due diligence, says analyst

A day after a pair of hacker groups promised to step up their attacks against government Web sites, one of them claimed to have knocked the U.K.'s Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) offline.

LulzSec today announced today that it had brought down SOCA.

"Tango down -- -- in the name of #AntiSec," the group said on its Twitter account Monday around noon ET.

LulzSec has claimed responsibility for a large number of recent database breaches and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, including against Sony and other gaming companies, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Senate .

Although Computerworld was for a time unable to access the home page of SOCA, by 1:15 p.m. ET the site was online, although resolving slowly.

SOCA is a national police agency in the United Kingdom akin to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) or Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF).

The attack followed the release of a manifesto Sunday by LulzSec that announced a new campaign against the world's governments.

"Welcome to Operation Anti-Security (#AntiSec)," the LulzSec statement read. "We encourage any vessel, large or small, to open fire on any government or agency that crosses their path. We fully endorse the flaunting of the word 'AntiSec' on any government website defacement or physical graffiti art."

LulzSec also said it was joining forces with Anonymous, another hacking group that last December led attacks against companies that had withdrawn payment and hosting services from WikiLeaks.

LulzSec is believed to be an offshoot of Anonymous.

"Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including email spools and documentation," LulzSec said in its statement. "Prime targets are banks and other high-ranking establishments."

One analyst wasn't surprised by the success of LulzSec's attacks.

"There's still a lot of low-hanging fruit out there, plenty to embarrass companies and organizations," said John Pescatore of Gartner. "Unfortunately, it's pretty easy to do."

Pescatore said the rash of hacks and DDoS attacks was a fad, akin to the one 10 years ago when worms were rampant, caused by a disconnect between vulnerabilities and enterprise security.

"Every time we go through one of these phases of rapid business change, it drives a bunch of changes -- this time, mobile, the cloud, the log-in-from-anywhere philosophy -- that opens up a new range of threats," said Pescatore.

"That dopey little groups can embarrass large organizations shows where we're at now, when vulnerabilities get ahead of security due diligence," Pescatore added.

What worries Pescatore isn't LulzSec and groups like it, but the profit-motivated copycats that will invariably appear. "A whole bunch of other people then see how much money can be made from the same techniques," he said.

One Gartner client -- Pescatore would only identify it as a lobbying group for a major religion -- reported a concerted, though not intensive DDoS attack. Shortly after, several other clients, all online electronic retailers, told the research firm that they'd received extortion demands to halt similar attacks.

Pescatore said the LulzSec attacks will also have another side effect. "Governments will want to try to help," he said.

According to Reuters , the Obama administration has pressed Congress to double the maximum sentence for hacking government and private networks to 20 years.

Pescatore said other efforts would pay better dividends. "Companies have to protect themselves by minimizing the vulnerabilities," he said.

And that's certainly possible.

"You don't see Cisco and Microsoft getting hacked," Pescatore noted. "They've evolved their security. But most companies haven't."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is .

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