July 18, 2011 at 7:00 PM ET
LulzSec, the group of hackers that said three weeks ago it was disbanding, claimed credit Monday for defacing Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper website, while an allied group, Anonymous, claimed credit for a denial-of-service attack that brought down the website of The Times, another Murdoch paper. The Sunday Times and News International sites also appeared to be down Monday.
"Tango down," Anonymous said on its Twitter page about The Times. Meanwhile, late Monday, those who went to the Sun's website were redirected to a website that looked like The Sun with a fake story that said Murdoch's body had been found in his garden. Then they were taken to LulzSec's Twitter page, where the group proclaimed:
"TheSun.co.uk now redirects to our twitter feed. Hello, everyone that wanted to visit The Sun!," then followed with this: ""We have joy, we have fun, we have messed up Murdoch's Sun."
But the group was less humorous with this comment: "Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation and you are a wasted old sack of s---, Murdoch."
The motivation behind LulzSec's hack of The Sun "is unclear, but it is possible that the hacking gang is still angry about the newspaper's coverage of the arrest of British teenager Ryan Cleary last month," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, on the British company's blog.
"Cleary, who newspapers speculated was affiliated with the LulzSec hacking gang, was described by The Sun using words such as 'geek,' 'nerd' and 'oddball' in their report of his arrest."
Cluley said that LulzSec "could have done much more harm with their hack. They could have attempted to infect computers visiting The Sun's website with malware, for instance. Nevertheless, their hack is against the law."
Murdoch is scheduled to appear before a parliamentary committee Tuesday to answer lawmakers' questions over phone hacking at News International, his British newspaper division. The scandal, which has rocked Britain, resulted in the closure of "News of the World" a little more than a week ago, and in the arrests of several individuals connected with the company, as well as police officials.
Most thought LulzSec was gone from the scene when it said last month it was stepping back to work with larger hacking group Anonymous in efforts to hack government and corporate websites the group deems corrupt.
But in an eerie Twitter posting July 13, LulzSec indicated it was far from done. "The LulzBoat is on holiday across mysterious shores, but we have a lovely surprise for you in the future," the group said.
Lulz — which is Internet speak for "laughs" and "Sec" — short for "security" — made its name known in May by defacing the website of the Public Broadcasting System. LulzSec posted a phony story on the site claiming that dead rapper Tupac Shakur was actually alive in New Zealand, the same kind of "prank" it did Monday to Murdoch's Sun.
The PBS hack followed the network's airing of a "Frontline" documentary considered by LulzSec and Anonymous as being critical of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. LulzSec subsequently launched denial-of-service attacks on the U.S. Senate and CIA's public websites, and claimed responsibility for bringing down the public website of Britain's FBI equivalent, the Serious Organized Crime Agency, after Cleary's arrest.
After LulzSec stepped back, stopping abruptly after posting confidential information from Arizona law enforcement, Anonymous became more visible. It did another hack against Arizona's police. The group also shared databases and emails it said it obtained by hacking the website of a company that contracts with federal government agencies, including the FBI and the U.S. Department of Defense, for information management services.
Last week, Anonymous announced it had posted information on 2,500 Monsanto employees and associates, and claimed credit for "crippling all three of their mail servers as well as taking down their main websites world-wide."
Monsanto acknowledged the breach, saying it happened last month, and but that contrary to initial reports, "only 10 percent of this publicly available information (was) related to Monsanto’s current and former employees. The list also included contact details for media outlets as well as other agricultural companies."
The Monsanto attack by Anonymous was preceded by one on military consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Anonymous posted online 90,000 military email addresses and passwords obtained from the firm, which confirmed the breach.
Anonymous gained notoriety for its denial-of-service attacks on Visa and MasterCard late last year. Those attacks were retribution, Anonymous said, because the companies halted online donations during the WikiLeaks controversy, blocking contributions to Bradley Manning, the accused document leaker now in custody.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.