A meeting of the International Telecommunications Union at the World Conference on International Communications in Dubai was attacked by hackers, causing the conference to suffer a network outage to one of its websites on Wednesday preventing delegates from accessing online documents that were being considered by the meeting.

While the debate among world governments over changes to the treaty regulating the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) takes place behind closed doors, online activists are terrified of a UN internet takeover.

It remains unclear who was behind the attacks. Anonymous, for one, has launched Operation WCIT and has pledged to carry out cyber-attacks against the organization in protest of internet regulation. 

opWCIT twitter account tweeted, “And it’s down,” yesterday, linking an image of an error message on the ITU’s website. 

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“It is ironic that the very people who claim to be fighting for a free Internet are preventing those around the world trying to follow the event online from getting access. Do they believe in one rule for them, and one for everyone else?” said ITU’s Secretary-General, Hamadoun Touré in a press release issued by the ITU.

According to the press release, network traffic was redirected to a backup website hosted in another geographical region. ITU noted a significant increase in network traffic generated by the worldwide attention around WCIT-12, and in particular, the public interest in conference documents and webcasts of conference proceedings. Some performance degradation was experienced for two hours before normal operation was restored.

The attack follows several approvals of deep package inspection. The technique is used by telecommunications operators to survey the number of blocked or dropped calls as well as several other traffic issues. However, deep package inspection can be used by telecommunication companies to monitor users’ internet activity, including the ability to view which sites the user has visited. 

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives voted unanimously to send a message to the ITU that the internet should remain unregulated. 

In the resolution, the US House of Representatives calls on US government officials to tell the ITU that it is the “consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global internet free from government control.”

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The "unanimous vote sends a clear and unmistakable message: the American people want to keep the Internet free from government control and prevent Russia, China and other nations from succeeding in giving the U.N. unprecedented power over Web content and infrastructure," said California Republican Mary Bono Mack, one of the bill’s cosponsors. 

"We cannot let this happen."

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