Hackers who broke into the News Corporation network and forced its British websites offline claim to have stolen sensitive data from the company including emails and usernames/passwords.
All of News Corporation's British websites were taken offline today following an attack on the website of tabloid The Sun, which earlier today was redirecting to a fake story about Rupert Murdoch's death.
Further pain is expected for the media mogul as the hacker group responsible for the attack claims to have also stolen emails and passwords for News International executives and journalists. It said it would release more information tomorrow.
Hacked ... LulzSec put a fake story on The Sun's website saying Rupert Murdoch was dead. Photo: ScreengrabWebsites for The Sun, The Times, BSkyB and News International were all inaccessible this morning.
It is believed News took the decision to pull the plug on its entire British network of sites following the hack attack on The Sun. This may have been to prevent further damage and stop unauthorised users from accessing private emails with the hacked login details.
The infamous hacking group LulzSec have claimed responsibility for taking over The Sun's website, linking to a site with the fake story under the headline "Media moguls body discovered", with "Lulz" printed at the bottom of the page.
Taken over ... The Sun website was redirecting to the LulzSec Twitter page.The site displaying the fake story then crashed because of heavy traffic, before The Sun's website redirected to LulzSec's Twitter page.
"TheSun.co.uk now redirects to our twitter feed. Hello, everyone that wanted to visit The Sun! How is your day? Good? Good!," the hackers wrote.
The fake Murdoch death story claimed the mogul "ingested a large quantity of palladium before stumbling into his famous topiary garden late last night".
In a tweet, LulzSec member Sabu suggested the group had also stolen News International journalists' emails or email login details. "Sun/News of the world OWNED. We're sitting on their emails. Press release tomorrow," Sabu wrote.
Sabu and other LulzSec members then began tweeting what they claimed were the usernames and passwords of top News International executives.
About 9am AEST, network administrators at The Sun appeared to have cottoned on to the hack and the entire Sun website was pulled down. Visitors were greeted with an error message.
LulzSec showed no fear of repercussions on its Twitter feed. "Arrest us. We dare you. We are the unstoppable hacking generation and you are a wasted old sack of sh--, Murdoch," read one post.
LulzSec, which had announced it was disbanding last month following the arrest of alleged members, is a global loose-knit hacker group in the same vein as Anonymous. It has targeted the US Senate, CIA, military technology contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and other government and corporate targets, purportedly for fun.
Lulz is a variation of the internet slang lol, which means laugh out loud. LulzSec members claim they do it "for the lulz", or laughs.
The group appears to have reformed just to target News International in Britain.
"Thank you for the love tonight. I know we quit, but we couldn't sit by with our wine watching this walnut-faced Murdoch clowning around," Lulzsec tweeted.
News International's websites, newsint.co.uk and newsinternational.co.uk, are also down, for unknown reasons.
The hacking of The Sun website comes as the phone hacking scandal continues to engulf News International.
A former News of the World journalist, Sean Hoare, who was one of the whistleblowers on phone hacking, was found dead at his home in Watford, about 40 kilometres from London.
Police said the death was unexplained, but not considered suspicious.
Murdoch, his son James and former News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks are scheduled to appear before members of parliament tonight, Australian time, to be grilled about what they knew about phone hacking.
News Ltd in Australia and News International in Britain are both subsidiaries of Murdoch's global News Corp empire.