Agency calls for ceasefire in hacking war

An ongoing struggle between Turkish and Swedish hackers gathered renewed force this week as websites belonging to Linköping Cathedral and Gothenburg Council were both defaced.

Earlier this month, attacks on Swedish web hosts by Turkish hackers led to difficulties for an estimated 5,000 websites. Swedish hackers then retaliated by stealing a database containing thousands of user names and passwords from a Turkish online forum.

The most recent attacks would seem to suggest that Turkish hackers are readying themselves for a protracted hacking war. With rumours of revenge already circulating on Swedish internet forums, Stefan B Grinneby, head of the Swedish IT Incident Centre (SITIC), is calling on domestic hackers to exercise restraint.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen but it’s possible that the situation could escalate since there are people who seem to enjoy this. But I hope the Swedish hackers are smart enough to realize that their efforts are counter-productive,” he told The Local.

“While they claim to be doing this for patriotic reasons, it has become very clear that they are actually doing themselves a disservice by putting Swedish websites at risk.”

Grinneby also pointed out that the Swedish hacking community would have a lot to gain from channeling its energies into a more constructive approach.

“The people behind these attacks possess a lot of expertise in the field of IT security. Rather than engaging in destructive activities, it would make a lot more sense for them to offer their services to Swedish web hosts and help them to strengthen their defences against potential attacks,” he said.

It is not unusual for so-called ‘hacktivists’ to deface websites for political reasons. But attacks on Swedish sites intensified after the publication in several newspapers of a caricature of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Many of the hackers targeting Swedish sites in recent weeks have left behind Islamist messages along with harsh criticism of the Scandinavian country.

Some Swedish hackers have responded by breaking into the e-mail and MSN accounts of Turkish forum users and circulating pornographic images of Muhammad and Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the modern Turkish state.