Japan government investigating small Web breaches after Anonymous attack threats

Several government ministries say they have taken down minor websites after they were altered illicitly

Several Japanese government ministries were investigating minor Web breaches Thursday, after what appeared to be threats of cyber attacks by the hacker collective Anonymous.

A page devoted to a small local office of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, as well as a subsection of the Ministry of Finance's website, were down Thursday, though the main pages of both were up as normal. Officials at both ministries said the disturbances were minor and investigations are ongoing.

Japanese media said the Tokyo Metropolitan Police are launching an investigation into the breaches, which included several other small attacks on government websites. A police spokesman declined to comment on the matter, but said that as the ministries are located in Tokyo the metropolitan police would be in charge of any potential investigation.

The outages came after a message purporting to be from Anonymous was posted online Monday, implying that attacks would come soon against the Japanese government and the Recording Industry of Japan.

The statement criticized a revision to Japan's copyright law passed last week that makes knowingly downloading copyright material without permission a criminal offense punishable by up to two years in jail or a fine of up to ¥2 million (US$25,000). The revised law is to go into effect from October.

The message said the change would lead to "scores of unnecessary prison sentences to numerous innocent citizens while doing little to solve the underlying problem of legitimate copyright infringement."

A spokesman at the land ministry said an image had been posted along with a message in English on the office's page, while an official at the finance ministry said an external link had been added to a public listing, but in a way that was not visible to the general public.

A Twitter account associated with the message claimed attacks had been successful on the websites of a Japanese political party, the public courts and a powerful business group.

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