Irish website 'hacked by Anonymous activists'

A screengrab of the Fine Gael website after it was hacked
Image caption A message from the hackers said the attack was carried out because of censorship

The website of Irish opposition party Fine Gaels has been hacked, revealing the personal data of 2,000 supporters.

A message posted by the hackers claimed they were part of Anonymous, a group that has carried out attacks against sites perceived to be anti-Wikileaks.

But posts on message boards used by Anonymous question whether the hackers were really part of the group.

The Garda and Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner confirmed to BBC News that they were investigating the incident.

The FBI has also been made aware of the attack, as the site is hosted in the US.

Fine Gael said the site had been "professionaly hacked" and that it had informed those affected that their personal details had been compromised.

"This was an unprecedented attack," said a spokesperson for the party.

"It is deeply regrettable that personal details were put into the public domain by the group involved. But we won't be put off and we will return to communicating with the electorate [via the site]."

He said the party had been told that the personal data had now been "destroyed" by the hackers.

The site was set up last week to poll the nation for their thoughts on how to improve Ireland. The attack on it took place late on 9 January.

As well as stealing information, the hackers posted a message on the site that read: "Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you. They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice. Wake up!"

A file containing the stolen personal details of nearly 2,000 people - including IP addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses - was forwarded to media organisations from someone claiming to belong to the Anonymous group.

The sender said the site was attacked because comments submitted to the site by users "were being censored".

However, comments on a message board used by members of Anonymous questioned whether the band of activists were responsible.

"I think something to the effect that 'anyone' can do a defacing and call themselves 'Anonymous'," read one.

A spokesperson for Fine Gael said the attack was "assumed to be by Anonymous", but "the link is yet to be proven".

Others have speculated it was a politically-motivated attack.

Anonymous has recently carried out a series of attacks in support of Wikileaks.

Its members used so-called Denial of Service attacks - which aim to swamp a website with so much data that they can no longer respond to legitimate page requests - against sites such as PayPal and Mastercard, which withdrew services from the whistle-blowing organisation.

It has also recently targeted key websites of the Tunisian government for what the group calls "an outrageous level of censorship" in the country.

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