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Mischievous Hackers Go After World Leaders

Jan 5, 2010 – 5:40 PM
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(Jan. 5) -- The Web sites of two world leaders were taken down in the past day for two surprising reasons: Mr. Bean and Michael Jackson.

Late Monday night, someone slapped a message on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's official site that pleaded to God for the leader's death in 2010, strangely mixing celebrity references with cold threats.

"Dear God," the statement read, "In 2009 you took my favorite singer – Michael Jackson, my favorite actress – Farrah Fawcett, my favorite actor – Patrick Swayze, my favorite voice – Neda," a reference to the first name of a woman killed by gunfire during Iranian's post-election protests in June 2009.

Continuing, the message said, "Please, please, don't forget my favorite politician – Ahmadinejad and my favorite dictator – Khamenei – in the year 2010. Thank you."

Around the same time, Spanish Prime Minster Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero once again played the victim in a long-running joke in his nation. Readers of the newly unveiled site for the incoming European Union president saw his portrait replaced with the British comedy character Mr. Bean. The comparisons spring from their similarities in physical appearance and bumbling ways, at least according to critics of Zapatero's economic leadership.

By Tuesday morning, both Web sites were rendered inaccessible, but early observers managed to save screen shots of the quixotic, pop-culture savvy messages.

There were no claims of responsibility in either incident, though both countries have faced plenty of challenges from hackers as of late.

Last month, the Spanish Ministry of Culture announced it was drafting plans to shut down popular file-sharing Web sites in the country. In response, self-described "hacktivists," or hacker activists, defaced a leading Spanish anti-piracy Web site, replacing it with their manifesto.

In June, pro-democracy activists around the Internet supported efforts to hack and "flood" Iran's government Web sites with "junk traffic" in an effort to take them temporarily offline. On the ground, protesters also used the Internet to organize their activities and upload images of the crackdown by the Iranian security forces.

In mid-December, Twitter's domain name system was hijacked and its home page defaced by hackers calling themselves the "Iranian Cyber Army." The microblog is one of the primary channels that dissidents and journalists have used to spread the news of the on-and-off opposition protests in Iran over the past six months.

While the source of that attack also remains anonymous at this time, the message left by the hackers claimed it was retaliation against the United States for "Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access" and for the U.S. trade embargo against Iran.
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