Julian Assange accompanied by police officers

Ecuador faced 40 million DDoS attacks after Assange arrest

Image credit: REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

The Ecuadorean government says that it has been targeted with 40 million cyber attacks in the few days since WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was removed from the country’s London embassy.

Assange shot to prominence in 2010 with the publication of sensitive documents acquired with the help of former US soldier Chelsea Manning, including footage of US troops in Apache helicopters laughing as they fired at insurgents, civilians and reporters. Later that year, Swedish authorities issued an international arrest warrant against him following allegations of ‘lesser-degree rape’, unlawful coercion, and sexual molestation. Assange claimed that the allegations were part of a plot to extradite him to the US where he could be punished for publishing the embarrassing material, and eventually sought asylum from Ecuador.

He remained in Ecuador’s London embassy from 2012 to 2019, during which time WikiLeaks became involved in the Moscow-led conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election.

Last week, Assange’s diplomatic protection was withdrawn, and Metropolitan Police officers entered the embassy to arrest him for breaching bail in 2012. Ecuadorean president Lenin Moreno accused Assange of spying and interfering with the “processes of other states”.

Additionally, Ecuadorean authorities have reportedly tired of his behaviour, which reportedly included skateboarding around the tiny building, walking around in his underpants, making “casual libels, sexist, or anti-Semitic remarks”, playing loud music at night, being rude to staff, and even smearing faeces on the walls. After the Ecuadorean government requested that he should only connect to the internet using the embassy’s wireless network and must clean up after himself and his pet cat, he announced that he would sue the government for “violating his fundamental rights”.

Assange’s legal representative accused the Ecuadorean government of “outrageous allegations” about his conduct.

This week, Moreno alleged that Assange invited hackers to join him at the embassy building. Speaking at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, Moreno said that Assange had directed hackers on how to shares information. One Swedish programmer, Ola Bini, reportedly visited Assange many times and hacked devices and accounts belonging to Ecuador’s government and private individuals.

Meanwhile, Patricio Real, deputy minister for information and communication technologies, said that the websites of Ecuadorean public institutes have been subjected to a torrent of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Real said that the sites had experienced approximately 40 million attacks in the few days since Assange’s arrest. These attacks originated from the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, Romania, France, Austria, the UK, and from Ecuador itself.

Javier Jara, undersecretary of the electronic government department of Ecuador’s telecommunications ministry, added that the country had suffered “volumetric attacks” blocking access to the web following “threats from those groups linked to Julian Assange”. The bodies most affected were the foreign ministry, central bank, president’s office, and internal revenue service, as well as other ministries and some universities. None of these bodies have accused hackers of successfully stealing or deleting data.

Assange is currently being housed in London’s Belmarsh Prison. US authorities have requested his extradition to respond to questioning about an accusation of hacking a government computer, while representatives in Sweden – which reported complete surprise at Assange’s ejection from the embassy – are said to be considering reopening the sexual offences investigations. The investigations were forced to be shelved due to Assange’s long unavailability.

While documents appear to confirm that Assange would not face capital punishment in the US, opposition leaders have spoken out against his possible extradition. Jeremy Corbyn and other prominent political figures have commented that Assange should not be extradited to the US, although they largely acknowledge that he should still face questioning on behalf of his accusers in Sweden. Last week, more than 70 MPs signed a letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott urging them to make sure that Assange is handed to Swedish authorities should they request his extradition.

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