Justice minister was hackers’ target

A Swedish filesharers' group has condemned Sweden's "repressive" Internet laws as police search for hackers who allegedly disabled government and police websites at the weekend.

The cyber-attack is believed to have have been retaliation for the government’s move to close a website called The Pirate Bay, which allows users to share copyrighted files such as movies and music.

Swedish Justice Minister Thomas Bodström has emerged as a possible target after hackers redirected web users to a picture on the Swedish government website showing Bodström, who has been criticised by filesharers.

“He has introduced a lot of repressive legislation, which makes him an obvious target,” Tobias Andersson, spokesman for The Pirate Agency which represents filesharers, told AFP while also condemning the hackers.

Sweden last year passed a law banning the sharing of copyrighted material on the Internet without payment of royalties, in a bid to crack down on free downloading of music, films and computer games. Violators can face a two-year prison sentence.

Media in the Scandinavian country also have suggested Swedish police acted at the behest of US authorities and Hollywood studios in their move to close Pirate Bay. Bodström has vehemently denied the allegations.

Sweden’s intelligence service Säpo was heading the search for the hackers, which has led to 50 police officers conducting raids in several cities and seizing some 200 servers. Three people were arrested, but later released.

A 17-year-old told a Swedish newspaper over the weekend that he launched Friday’s strike on a police website as revenge for authorities closing The Pirate Bay, but this has not been confirmed.

“Over a million Swedes share files. There are always people who want to do this sort of thing (hack websites) who are more angry than others,” Andersson said.

Three days after its closure last week, The Pirate Bay reopened using servers in The Netherlands. The website provides instructions on how to share music and film files using links offered on the site, which attracts 1.5 million users throughout the world every day.

Prime Minister Göran Persson told the Swedish news agency TT on Sunday that he did “not want to speculate” about whether the attack on the government website was a response to The Pirate Bay’s closure.

While The Pirate Agency defended free filesharing, it also fought for freedom of expression, including for the police and the government, said Andersson, who condemned the attack on the government homepage.

Any individual could have carried out the attack, he said.

“It could be a bunch of 14-year-olds who think its cool.”