The service interruption of government websites and the disclosure of the supposedly personal data of top-ranking politicians claimed by hacking collective LulzSec is part of a string of cyber attacks that have taken place in Brazil in the last 48 hours. This is considered the largest cyber offensive in Brazilian history.
The Brazilian government and presidency websites, Brasil.gov.br and Presidencia.gov.br were brought down yesterday and was followed by the military-esque, now-familiar cry of “Tango Down!” on the Twitter feeds of LulzSec and its Brazilian arm, LulzSecBrazil. The hacking group is deemed responsible for attacks at the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Senate, as well as the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in the UK.
Other websites operated by government departments were also hit by the hacking attacks, such as the tax collection agency and the Ministry of Sports. The latter department also had supposed staff login details for restricted areas of its website leaked.
The website of oil giant Petrobras has also been hit and became unavailable yesterday, but the company attributed the collapse to “a high number of simultaneous accesses”, highlighting that no damage to data had been caused.
Following the attacks, LulzSec posted a Twitter message which read: “Our Brazilian unit is making progress. Well done @LulzSecBrazil, brothers!”
Pinging the Brazilian government, revenue and presidency web sites at 4:31pm BST showed they were all unreachable from São Paulo.
Members of the group have also gained access to supposedly private data from São Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab and the country’s president Dilma Rousseff, which included federal revenue contribution numbers, email addresses and telephone numbers.
In his Twitter account, Kassab expressed sympathy to the president and labelled the attack as a “brutality”.
“Facts like this show how the technology needs to advance to prevent the action of vandals, ” the mayor added.
LulzSec Brazil is now calling on hackers and activists to pillage government data for secret information, in an operation dubbed Anti-Security. Fellow cyberactivist group Anonymous – to which the recent attack on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is attributed – has joined forces with Lulz in the hacking attacks. In a You Tube video, a representative of the Anonymous Brazilian arm said:
“Anonymous has been watching the widespread manipulation of information in Brazil for a long time and decided it’s time to take a stance about it. A government without transparency and citizens lacking information are the greatest threats to democracy and Brazil is heading more and more towards those threats and therefore taking away the little freedom the population has left.”
Many of the information leaked about the politicians are public, but the attacks raise questions over the efficiency of the country’s incipient cyber security efforts. The Brazilian government is set to launch a cyber defense unit staffed by the Armed Forces to protect the country’s critical infrastructure and enable the mitigation of cyber attacks.
However, is the government ready for what could possibly be a digital revolution? While some Brazilians take to the streets and literally “bang the drum” to demand transparency and democracy, there could now be an army of tech-savvy and angry citizens looking to resolve issues the country has had to contend with during the major part of its 511-year history – in a more forceful manner.
The recent developments in Brazilian politics, such as the discovery that Dilma Rousseff’s chief of staff Antonio Palocci had gotten 20 times richer during four years in office, and the president’s decision to sack him earlier this month, was received as the start of a move towards transparency. Until it was discovered that the government is proposing to start blocking the release of archived government documents – a u-turn on the announced policy to de-classify everything after fifty years.
The law that would give access to government documents was supposed to be signed on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, but the vote has been postponed several times due to resistance from the chair of the Brazilian external relations committee, Fernando Collor – who also happens to be a former president impeached on corruption charges in 1992.
While these events are seen by many shoulder-shrugging Brazilians as just another example of ‘untouchable’ politicians, it could well be that these recent antics by the elected leaders were the last straw for a group of techies.
Techies who are now ready to take justice into their own hands.
Image by Chris Devers licensed under Creative Commons.