By Catherine Solyom, Postmedia News
MONTREAL — “Government of Quebec, you have been warned.”
The unmasked threat was part of an Anonymous video broadcast early Saturday, just as the international hacktivist collective brought down 13 Quebec government and police websites, as it officially launched #OpQuebec and brought the ongoing street protests online.
On Wednesday, websites for the Quebec public safety ministry, the Liberal Party of Quebec, the Quebec coroner’s office and the Quebec police ethics commission remained out of order, or “under maintenance.”
This, in retaliation for the government opting to “assassinate the right to protest by adopting an emergency law to try and stifle protests against the tuition hikes.”
The video has since received more than 156,000 hits on YouTube.
According to Commander X, one of the least anonymous Anons and an important organizer of its operations, the group has been discussing for two weeks whether to get involved in the situation in Quebec, as it did in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere last year.
“The passing of ‘Special Law 78’ has merely added a sense of urgency and forced us to take immediate action,” said Commander X, whose real name is Christopher Doyon.
Bill 78 makes it illegal to assemble, protest or picket outside universities and colleges, or anywhere in Quebec with more than 50 people without prior police approval.
The denial-of-service attacks launched Saturday also targeted the Montreal police, and other government sites.
In a pre-emptive move, the Education Department took its own site off-line — so hacktivists couldn’t.
The department’s site was attacked in April, following Premier Jean Charest’s off-the-cuff remarks about how students should get a job up north – “as far north as possible.”
A spokesperson for the department said Saturday it will continue to take its site off-line evenings and weekends.
Doyon estimated some 300 to 500 individuals around the world participated in these latest attacks on Quebec websites by flooding the websites with requests so they could no longer respond. “Even some folks from Anonymous Bahrain” took part, he said.
You know it’s bad when protesters in Bahrain become involved.
In an interview Saturday, Quebec Public Security Minister Robert Dutil said his department was taking the attacks seriously.
“Today with the Internet, there are hackers, who are capable of hacking,” Dutil told reporters. “We have to find a way to stop the hackers.”
Doyon said the attacks will continue, however, until the “draconian Special Law 78 is repealed or overturned in court.” Until then, he said, Anonymous will step up the pressure.
“The next phase of (OpQuebec) will involve more advanced hacks of police and government websites, such as defacements and data dumps,” Doyon said, “combined with the dissemination of high-impact media such as videos and posters.”
In the meantime, other groups are also turning to the Internet to protest against the tuition hikes and/or Bill 78.
Arretezmoiquelquun.com — Someone arrest me — was launched on Monday and features more than 4,000 people who uploaded their photos with signs that say “I disobey Bill 78” or some less polite wording to that effect.