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Hacktivists ‘Anonymous Africa’ attack South African news site IOL

Independent Newspapers has confirmed that its subsidiary IOL suffered a denial-of-service (DDos) attack yesterday, rendering the popular news website unavailable for hours.

Behind the attack is a group that calls itself “Anonymous Africa,” who claims that the Independent Newspapers group supports Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe for an opinion piece IOL published on Sunday.

Minutes before the attack the Twitter account for Anonymous Africa with the handle @zim4thewin sent out these tweets:

A DDos attack functions by flooding servers with a large amount of traffic which, in this case, brought down Independent Newspapers’ email and internet systems from 11am to around 1pm.

Anton Harber, Caxton professor of journalism at Wits University, said this was “an attack on the rights to free expression” of those who support Mugabe.

“Freedom of speech means tolerating even — or especially — opinions one dislikes. They can disagree, even protest, but vandalising a newspaper site and preventing the expression of different opinions is a thuggish attack on freedom of expression.”

IOL defended the publication of the opinion piece with a ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ outlook:

“As a news organisation that includes more than a dozen newspapers as well online properties, we publish a range of opinions, including some that may not be popular,” said IOL editor Alastair Otter. “Publishing these does not imply that we agree, or disagree, with those views. We pride ourselves on allowing and publishing a multiplicity of views. It is unfortunate that anyone could use this simple principle of media as an excuse for an attack on us.”

It is unclear whether Anonymous Africa is linked to global hacker movement Anonymous by anything other than name, and so its similar modus operandi of DDos attacks is, at this stage, more likely tribute than it is involvement.

Author | Ronan Steyn: Staff Reporter

Ronan Steyn: Staff Reporter
Ronan Steyn has a love for all things technology, with a particular focus on startups, gadgets and games. When not writing the good write, he can be found making films or purveying the latest gadget, game or film. At night he attempts an MA in Screenwriting at UCT. A... More