International hacktivist group Anonymous has targeted the Zimbabwe government after it attempted to halt nationwide protests through various means including blocking social media sites.
The protests have been directed towards rising diesel and petrol prices across the country, with police crackdowns resulting in the death of 12 people. One tactic from the government to regain control saw legal action directed at the three mobile networks to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube and Twitter, according to Bloomberg.
In reaction to the internet shut-down, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Zimbabwe unit of the Media Institute of Southern Africa has filed a lawsuit against the government order, suggesting it has resulting in loss of income and threats to life. Although largely unconfirmed, some are suggesting the government has initiated a full internet shutdown in various places.
While such lawsuits are unlikely to worry the government at this time, the attention of Anonymous might be more of a concern. On the Ghostbin website, the group left the following message:
“Greetings Zimbabwe, we are Anonymous. We have previously seen innocent people being killed in Zimbabwe. We have seen oppression and tyranny. We have seen people being oppressed for fighting for freedom. We cannot tolerate that. As we did with the Sudanese government, we have successfully taken down 72+ Zimbabwe government websites. This is only a start. Your banking system will also fall soon. Zimbabwe government, you have become an enemy of Anonymous! Your systems are in danger! In the face of oppression, rebellion become our duty.”
Some of the websites which have been targeted so far include the Ministry of ICT, the Housing Ministry, the Justice Department and the Ministry of Defence. You can see the full list of targets here.
While the scope of the group is relatively limited for the moment, the threat of wider retaliation could bring the country to its knees. In Sudan, the group attacked more than 200 websites, while also targeting the government’s services for electronic payments. Should the group target the banking system as promised in the above message, things could go from uncomfortable to disastrous.