Hackers disabled several websites of New Zealand's ruling party to protest a new law that would enable the country’s spy agency to snoop on its citizens. Kim Dotcom said hacking the sites only gave PM John Key “a new excuse to pass the GCSB bill”.
Dear Anonymous NZ, hacking National Party websites is just giving John Key a new excuse to pass the #GCSB bill (cybercrime). Please stop it.— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) July 29, 2013
Dotcom, the MegaUpload founder who the victim of Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) snooping last year, is among those outraged by the New Zealand bill. However, the internet mogul said on Twitter that hacking National Party websites would only make things worse.
The bill was actually prompted by disclosures that the Bureau had illegally spied on Dotcom, who is fighting attempts by the US government to extradite him on charges of Internet piracy, copyright infringement, and money laundering.
On July 28 hacktivist group Anonymous uploaded a video on YouTube claiming responsibility for the hacking of fourteen websites, including those for Prime Minister John Key and Finance Minister Bill English. The attack was prompted by Key’s refusal to listen to protests against the ''despicable piece of legislation''.
“This new law allows to spy on New Zealanders without a warrant. We strongly condemn this bill,” the video message explained. “John Key, do you think you can pass a new law without a majority of New Zealanders behind it?”
The websites of the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were
restored after being attacked around midnight. The website of the
Deputy Leader of the National Party Gerry Brownlee is still
The surveillance bill, which is expected to be passed in parliament, would give the GCSB carte blanche to listen in on citizens’ phone conversations. As things stand now, it spies on foreign targets via electronic listening posts but is not allowed to spy on New Zealand citizens or residents.
The law has been slammed by Internet and civil rights groups, prompting street protests over the weekend. Thousands of people turned out in eleven cities and towns across New Zealand in what was dubbed as an “uphill battle” to stop the bill from coming into effect.
''It has come to our attention that the thousands that have marched against this bill has still not been enough to send John Key and Peter Dunne a message," Anonymous said in the video message.
"John Key make no mistake the majority of New Zealanders oppose this bill. Due to your own arrogance and your unwillingness to listen to the people we have decided to take direct action.''
Anonymous promised that the websites would remain offline until the National Party patched its web servers or withdrew the bill and apologized to those it had affected, including Kim Dotcom.
Last January New Zealand police stormed Dotcom’s mansion, seizing assets and digital material. A judge later condemned the raid as illegal and ordered law enforcement to return items that were seized that were not directly linked the case against Dotcom. The judge’s decision also led to an official apology from Key to Dotcom, who alleged that the GCSB collaborated with the US government in a bid to comply with the extradition order issued by Washington.