Amazon website hit amid 'Hacktivist' fears

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Shopping website Amazon went offline for a brief period, prompting fears it may be the latest victim of sabotage from cyber attacks by WikiLeaks supporters.

But the company denied that "hacktivists" were responsible, attributing the disruption to technical issues instead.

A spokesman said: "The brief interruption to our European retail sites last night was due to hardware failure in our European data centre network and not the result of a DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attempt." was unreachable, while the company's French, German and Italian domains were also experiencing problems.

But after about half an hour last night the UK site was working again, a relief to thousands of Christmas shoppers.

Hacktivists originally suggested they may be responsible for the site going down.

Anonymous, a group of online hacktivists who support the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, has claimed responsibility for a series of DDoS attacks in the past week.

The attacks have disrupted the websites of companies including Visa, Mastercard and PayPal by bombarding them with millions of visits in revenge for withdrawing WikiLeaks' services.

A message on a Twitter account used by the activists, Anonops, last night read: "We cant confirm anything because we'll lose our accounts again. Be alert and you will realize."

The message was deleted minutes later.

An earlier post which quoted Abraham Lincoln read: "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."

Several accounts attributed to Anonymous and its campaign, dubbed Operation Payback, have been suspended over the attacks.

Earlier in the week the group appeared to abort an attack against Amazon after it failed to make any impact on the site's performance.

Members of the loose-knit group posted a message saying: "Attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste."

DDoS attacks, which are illegal in the UK, involve overloading a website with high numbers of requests so it stops working.

Mike Prettejohn, a director of security firm Netcraft, which is monitoring the attacks, said Amazon was a "difficult target" with a "huge infrastructure".

Speaking earlier in the week, he said: "It's a very technically sophisticated company."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is awaiting an extradition hearing over rape allegations and could also face extradition to the US for allegations of espionage.

Companies have been under intense pressure to cut ties with the website, hurting its ability to accept donations.

WikiLeaks has refused to link itself with the Anonymous group, saying "we neither condemn nor applaud these attacks".

Anonymous has said it is leading a "peaceful campaign" and denied being a terrorist or vigilante organisation.

HELPING HAND: Ben Wilson, MD at MPM, with Victoria Hopkins, MD at Hopkins Catering. PIC: Tony Johnson

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