Sheffield & South Yorkshire

'Assange supporters' claim to hack Yorkshire councils

Screen grab
Image caption Hackers claim to have targeted Bedale and Barnsley councils

Hackers are claiming to have taken two Yorkshire council websites offline as part of a campaign to free Julian Assange.

The WikiLeaks founder had been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London until his arrest on 11 April.

The websites for Barnsley Council and Bedale Town Council were targeted on Tuesday morning.

Barnsley Council said its site was restored by 11:30 BST and the National Cyber Security Centre had been alerted.

Bedale council said it was unaware of a website issue.

Tweets from hacking groups the Philippine Cyber Eagles and Anonymous Espana claimed responsibility.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Julian Assange after his removal from the embassy

Barnsley Council said it had experienced a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS), which it explains as where "a hacker overwhelms a website making it unusable for regular users".

A spokesman said: "We became aware of the issue at approximately 08:40.

"Having initially believed the issue was not related to a cyber-attack, while investigating the issue it became clear that the amount of traffic hitting the council website was massively above normal levels."

He added: "No customer data has been lost, stolen or accessed by the attack against the council's website and the council remained fully in control of the situation."

A tweet from the group CyberGhost404, which linked to the crashed Barnsley Council website, said: "Free Assange or chaos is coming for you!"

That accounts claims to belong to the founder of a hacking group known as the Philippine Cyber Eagles.

A tweet from the account Anonymous Espana included an image suggesting the group had access to the council's files and was threatening to leak them.

Mr Assange, 47, sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on a rape allegation that he denied.

He remained in the embassy, fearing a lesser charge of failing to surrender to the court in 2012 could lead to his extradition to the US.

He is currently being detained at Belmarsh prison.

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