Hacker takes over Venezuelan news site, warns government to not give asylum to Edward Snowden

By Alejandro Martínez

Update: Asked about the incident, staff at El Nacional said the newspaper's site was never hacked.

Eduardo Ponte, El Nacional's interactive content and social media manager, said his tech support and programming team were unable to detect any intrusion to their servers or interruption to the site's service.

Ponte added that the image The Jester allegedly inserted into the site wasn't really lodged in the site. Indeed, the URL for the image file in which The Jester's message appears ("http://i.imgur.com/ezc1iP9.png") can be swapped for any other to make it look as if the image appears on El Nacional's search engine.

"What he did with El Nacional is fake, it was all made up," he said.

Original: A hacker took over the webpage of the Venezuelan daily El Nacional on Tuesday to criticize the country's government over its decision to offer asylum to Edward Snowden, according the magazine Mother Jones.

In the letter, the hacker known as The Jester threatened the Venezuelan government to use the news site again and publish "its dirty laundry," such as alleged details about corrupt officials with ties to drug trafficking.

“I would therefore ask that you reconsider your stance on this small but volatile matter before weird things start happening," the hacker wrote.

Last month, Edward Snowden became one of the most wanted men by the United States after revealing to The Guardian and Washington Post details about a program run by the National Security Agency that collects and analyzes millions of communications data, from telephone calls and emails to internet searches and social media activities.

Snowden initially fled to Hong Kong and is currently in hiding at an airport in Russia.  He has solicited political asylum from various countries in Latin America, including Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia. According to WikiLeaks, Snowden has not yet confirmed that he will go to Venezuela.

The Jester has made news recently for his statements and actions against Snowden, and has promised to go after any country that offers to help him. Recently he launched attacks against Bolivian Vice-President Álvaro García Linera, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Ecuadorian websites such as those of the Ministry of Tourism and the Stock Exchange of Guayaquil, reported Mother Jones.

The hacker claims to be a former American soldier and a self-proclaimed "patriot." Unlike other notable hackers, The Jester supports his home country's government. In the past, he has launched cyber attacks against WikiLeaks and sites associated with Al Qaeda.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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