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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 13:36 GMT
Anti-war hacking rises sharply
Example of a web defacement
Pro-peace messages are being posted on websites
More than 20,000 websites have been hacked since the war on Iraq began according to one security firm.

Finnish security firm F-Secure has seen a dramatic rise in the number of hack attacks since the conflict started last week.

In the first few days of the conflict there was a flurry of attempts to access vulnerablities on websites such as that of the US Navy.

Defacements from pro-Islamic hacking groups suggested that it was the beginning of a new era of cyber hacking.

Peace campaigners

Now it seems that the hackers are getting closer to sensitive targets with both the Whitehouse and Number 10 websites suffering attacks over the weekend according to F-Secure.

"More and more people are joining in the fray," said General Manager of F-Secure Jason Holloway.

"The majority of the messages are still anti-war," he added.

Qatar-based TV station Al-Jazeera has reported that a denial-of-service attack could have been conducted on its website.

The attack has not been confirmed and could just be due to a large weight of traffic. Al-Jazeera has now launched an English-language version of its website which has also suffered outages.

This conflict has seen a new breed of hacktivist, in the shape of pro-peace campaigners who have been joining pro-Islamic hackers and pro-American groups in expressing their grievances online.

Political tensions around the globe are often mirrored in cyberspace.

Increased tensions in the Middle East and between Pakistan and India have all been used by so-called hacktivists to launch web defacements and denial of service attacks.

Three Iraq war-related computer viruses, including the Ganda worm, have also been spotted by F-Secure, although the damage done by these has been limited.

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