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Sky News election petition defaced by prankster hackers

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Computer hackers with a grudge made merry at the expense of Rupert Murdoch after infiltrating the Sky News website.

The scamps tampered with a petition in support of Sky's campaign to stage a debate between the leaders of Britain's main political parties in the run-up to the next general election. A picture of Brown, Cameron and Clegg was replaced by a beaming mugshot of Rupert Murdoch, Sky's founder.

The petition itself was renamed the "Windbag Debate Petition". Underneath that was included "five reasons this debate idea stinks" and, perhaps by way of counter-argument, the statement that a "TV debate could be sudden political death - bring it on!".

The defacement was live for a few hours before it was replaced by the original "The Leaders' Debate Petition" at around 2200 on Thursday, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The Daily Telegraph story carries a screen-capture of the defacement. Normally hackers deface the front page of websites with digital graffiti. The Sky attack was more subtle and sophisticated than that.

An (earnest) Sky spokesman told the paper: "No temporary disturbance will get in the way of a campaign that has already got more than 9,000 people signed up to it. The case for a debate remains undiminished."

Sky News has written to leaders of the three main UK political parties inviting them to take part in a live television debate, which would be a first in a British election campaign. The scheme is designed to help British voters to become more engaged in the political process, following the expenses scandal earlier this year and steadily declining turn-out numbers for years.

David Cameron, leader of the Conservatives, and Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems have accepted their invitations. Gordon Brown is yet to respond. ®

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