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Why Anonymous hacked the tiny island nation of Nauru

Nauru is home to a controversial holding facility for immigrants heading to Australia.


Curt Hopkins

Internet Culture

Posted on Jul 23, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 10:52 am CDT

For most people, the hacktivist collective Anonymous’s attack on the website of the island nation of Nauru probably seems pretty random.

But the Republic of Nauru, whose government website and primary ISP, CenpacNet Inc., were brought down over the weekend, is one of the primary processing centers for refugee immigration to Australia, a policy based on the country’s “Pacific Solution.”

This policy holds immigration applicants on islands off Australia instead of on the mainland. This has become a controversial issue in Australia. The asylum seekers and their supporters had earlier protested peacefully for a change in the long holding times for immigrants, but to no avail.

On Friday, a riot broke out in the processing center on Nauru, nearly destroying it and causing an estimated AUS$60 in damages. Nauru’s president called on “strong and able men” to help corral the escaped refugees, raising Anonymous’s ire.

Nauru police have charged 150 of the center’s approximately 550 residents, who have been transferred to jail facilities.

Anonymous’s attack, according to the Guardian’s Oliver Laughland, “resulted in all official emails and government being shut down for over four hours. It was claimed that the Nauruan government had suspended all Internet access outside of official use preceding the Anonymous attack.”

Nauru’s economy was based on phosphate mining. In its wake, the island has experienced environmental degradation and economic turmoil as the phosphate ran out. One of its few hard currency avenues is aid from Australia.

H/T Guardian | Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: Jul 23, 2013, 2:42 pm CDT