Russian hackers allegedly interfere with the Catalan referendum

Image of a Salvamento Maritimo emergency rescue vessel. Credit: [email protected]

AS the government in Madrid continues to block any website providing information on the upcoming Catalan referendum, hackers from across the globe are getting involved to help out the Catalans – most notably the Russians.

According to reports, the greatest challenge facing the independence movement is broadcasting the location of voting centres and registering voters. The police continue to shut down websites providing the information so a group of hackers based in Russia and other locations around the globe are busying themselves by constantly creating new links to the website so Spanish law enforcement agencies are unable to shut it down completely. 

After police axed the original referendum website, Catalan president Carles Puigdemont published two new web addresses located in the UK and Luxembourg yet both were immediately closed by court order. Last Monday, police accused 15 Spanish hackers, based in Valencia, Barcelona, Girona and Tarragona, of replicating the referendum website.

Overseas allies of the movement, however, were able to replicate the content easily and have been posting clones of the site ever since.

While any web domain hosted within the European Union can be shut down by authorities relatively quickly, websites created outside the EU are much harder to be censored – particularly in countries such as Russia who have no agreements with Europe involving digital law.

It is not a coincidence that the Catalans have been helped by the Russians as support for the independence movement has been trending on several social media sites across the country in recent weeks. They have also traditionally been a key player in political cyber intervention, as several Russian hackers are currently under investigation for their alleged interference in the US elections last year. 

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