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Hacktivists have been blamed for cutting off access to the Web site of the World Economic Forum (WEF), a talking shop for the world's political and business leaders, over the weekend.

The "denial of service" attack against weforum.org began on the first day of the five-day conference in New York and continued during the course of the meeting, Reuters reports.

Despite the fact organisers were keen to point the finger at Internet vandals, statements to reporters suggest a more mundane explanation - failure to set up the site properly - might be behind the outage.

Reuters reports that spokesman Charles McLean told journalists on Friday that "too many hits on our Web site are shutting it down."

"If it's in fact vandals, that's unfortunate because we are in the dialogue business and dialogue involves communication," he added.

New York's Village Voice newspaper reports that the Electronic Disturbance Theatre, RTMark, and Federation of Random Action have taken credit for staging a "virtual sit in" that crashed the site. Email messages to organisers on Thursday failed to get through, it reports.

According to the Village Voice hacktivists reportedly used a tool to flood the Web site with spurious requests, so denying access to weform.org.

However Reuters quotes unnamed law enforcement officials who said a group called "The Yes Men" used a tool called Reamweaver to redirect users to a parody site.

The site (which incidentally uses the unusual combination of Lotus-Domino/5.0.8 on Windows 2000, Netcraft reports) is now back online.

Last year, a group called "Virtual Monkeywrench" broke into the WEF's site and gained access to data on 27,000 participants, including the credit card details and phone numbers of participants such as Bill Gates and Yasser Arafat.

Critics complain that the WEF, which normally meets annually in Davos, Switzerland but was moved to New York this year as a gesture of solidarity, is controlled by the rich and powerful, who they blame for many of the world's economic and political problems. Anti-globalisation protestors have taken to the streets to protest against the conference; a number of arrests have been made. ®

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