Hackers report taking down CIA website

Screen shot of CIA public website timed out.

The hactivist group that calls itself LulzSec claimed to have taken down the CIA's website on Wednesday afternoon. Connections remained sporadic by early evening on the East Coast, but by 9 p.m. ET, the site appeared to be fully restored.

Preston Golson, a spokesman for the CIA, said the agency was checking into reports of the hack but had no further comment.

The news of another cyber scalp, which the group tweeted - "Tango down - cia.gov - for the lulz" - apparently marks another major website that has been taken offline recently by cyber protesters. Just who or what LulzSec is remains unclear. The still mysterious group began to make waves earlier this spring. CNET has reported that LulzSec is a spinoff from another hacktivist organization that calls itself Anonymous. But unlike Anonymous, the LulzSec hackers have not issued any political messages.

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The name of the group is a derivative of LOL (laugh out loud) combined with security. It has adopted as mascot a cartoon of a monacled man with a handlebar mustache, wearing a top hat and tie, who is holding a glass of wine.

In May, LulzSec came to the public's attention when it went after the website operated by Fox television's "X Factor." The hack left the personal information of contestants and well as internal Fox data exposed. Since then, LulzSec has figured - or at least claimed credit - for hacks carried out against Sony Music Japan, Sony Pictures, Sony BMG Belgium and Netherlands, Sony Computer Entertainment Developer Network and Sony BMG.

It also defaced a PBS website after the airing of a documentary by the public television network that the group viewed as critical of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The group managed to post a spoof news article on the site claiming that the dead rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were alive and residing in New Zealand.

In carrying out its myriad hacks, LulzSec has also made sure to leave mocking calling cards. After launching its sundry attacks against Sony, it left posts online poking fun at "silly Sony" and "You Sony morons," adding that "everything we have will be published in multiple ways to ensure maximum embarrassment and exposure for [Sony] and their security flaws."

Flexing its muscles on Monday, LulzSec penetrated a Senate server but was not able to access any files. In a statement it later issued, the group described the hack as a "just for kicks" attempt to help the government "fix their issues."

"We don't like the US government very much. Their boats are weak, their lulz are low, and their sites aren't very secure," it wrote in an online post. "In an attempt to help them fix their issues, we've decided to donate additional lulz in the form of owning them some more!"

On Wednesday, hackers again attacked the Senate's public website but it was not immediately clear who was behind that probe.

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