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UK police warns off hacktivists

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UK police have taken the unusual step of warning prospective hacktivists that they risk arrest and prosecution if they get involved in denial of service or other forms of cyberattack.

An update on the Met Police's official Twitter account points surfers towards a notice stating that defacing websites, running denial of service attacks or looting corporate email databases is illegal, both in the UK and in many other jurisdictions. Even attacks aimed at targets outside the UK can be prosecuted in Britain.

The notice follows days after the arrest of a teenager in the Shetland Islands, Jake Davis, alleged to be "Topiary", a spokesman and prominent member of the Topiary hacking crew. Like Ryan Cleary, 19, of Wickford, Essex, Davis was charged with running denial of service attacks against the website of Soca, a UK police agency charged with investigating serious crime.

Law enforcement agencies in the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, the US and elsewhere have arrested alleged Anonymous and LulzSec members. The websites of law enforcement agencies have been a prime target for both hacktivist groups, partly because of this. So it could be the Met Police notice is designed to deter less committed members from launching attacks on UK police websites in response to the arrest of a Topiary suspect.

The approach is a bit like a police superintendent getting out a loud hailer to address football fans to tell them to behave when trouble seemed to be looming, as it frequently was during in the mid-'80s before all-seater stadia and the corporate reinvention of the beautiful game.

Anonymous has said that the arrests will not impede its objectives, arguing that you can't imprison an idea and comparing its activities in exposing insecurity on corporate websites to civil disobedience campaign of the past. High-minded ideals, to be sure.

The group has a lot less to say in justifying the publications of personal and sensitive data of individuals, such as Sun reader competition entrants, Sony PlayStation gamers and others. ®

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