Elements of the international hacktivist group Anonymous claim to have taken down the National Security Agency’s website.
A tweet from the Twitter Account @AnontmousPress sent at 4:20 Eastern time said simply
— Anonymous Press (@AnonymousPress) March 21, 2013
At 4:20pm Eastern time, the website at NSA.gov appeared to be down. As of 4:30pm Eastern, the site was back up and running.
The takedown comes after weeks of other attacks by Anonymous on government websites, including the Department of Justice.
On their website, the NSA defines its mission as:
The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.
Last year, the head of NSA warned that Anonymous could move beyond cyberattacks to taking out the power grid, in a story published in the Wall Street Journal. Reporting on the Journal story, PRI said:
Unidentified sources told the Journal that in private meetings at the White House, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander warned that in a year or two the group could attack the energy grid and shut off power for millions. The Journal reported that though Alexander hasn’t publicly voiced any concerns, he has warned publicly about an emerging ability by cyberattackers to disable or even damage computer networks.
“A group like Anonymous is very difficult to deter from this type of behavior, because they are basically seeking attention. The thinking was that they could take out some portion of power temporarily. To the average person, it might not look like more than what would be hit in a powerstorm. The issue is that Anonymous makes these things public,” Gorman said.
Anonymous responded by calling the reports fearmongering and then attacked the comment section of the Wall Street Journal.
The interruption to service at the NSA website may have other causes, such as heavy traffic. Claims by Anonymous have not yet been confirmed.