Anonymous, the loosely-organized band of hacker activists and vigilantes, has chosen its next victim: The government of Tunisia. (They've taken down its official website.) Why? In part, because it tried to block access to secret-sharing website Wikileaks.
Sometime in early December, according to The Next Web Middle East, the Tunisian government blocked not just Wikileaks but any news source publishing or referencing leaked cables that originated or referenced Tunisia—including Tunileaks, a Tunisia-specific exploration of the massive cache of diplomatic communication. In one of the cables, an American diplomat referred to the country as "a police state"; currently, anti-government protests have wracked the country in the wake of an unemployed man's self-immolation.
The block of Tunileaks wasn't the first time the Tunisian government had attempted to censor the internet. But it seems to have been noteworthy enough to have spurred, or at least raised the profile of, a semi-organized effort to, well, mess with the Tunisian government's web presence. (It doesn't hurt that Wikileaks is the current internet cause célèbre.) A "recruiting" call went up on AnonNews.org, a user-edited clearing house for information and news by and about the disorganized, decentralized "hacktivist" group:
A time for truth has come. A time for people to express themselves freely and to be heard from anywhere in the world. The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. Anonymous has heard the claim for freedom of the Tunisian people. Anonymous is willing to help the Tunisian people in this fight against oppression. It will be done. It will be done.
This is a warning to the Tunisian government: attacks at the freedom of speech and information of its citizens will not be tolerated. Any organization involved in censorship will be targeted and will not be released until the Tunisian government hears the claim for freedom to its people. It's on the hands of the Tunisian government to stop this situation. Free the net, and attacks will cease, keep on that attitude and this will just be the beginning.
"#optunisia" so far seems to have taken the same kind of disruptive strategy that Anonymous hackers used in December against PayPal and MasterCard when those companies announced they wouldn't do business with Wikileaks anymore. But while in those cases the "hacking" was limited to DDoS attacks that took down the sites temporarily, there is some evidence that the hackers involved in #optunisia have been a little more sophisticated—specifically, this screenshot taken of the Tunisian Prime Minister's website (courtesy WL Central):
The Prime Minister's site, as well as official government site Tunisia.gov.tn and several others, are, as of this blog post's publication, down.