Hackers disrupted and shut down dozens of Venezuelan government and state-backed websites this week (7 August), pledging online support to a recent protest campaign seemingly designed to spark an uprising against the country's leftist leader, Nicolas Maduro.

The hacking collective, branded The Binary Guardians, hit roughly 40 websites including those of the government, the Supreme Court and the legislature. The attacks came a day after former military officials and 20 officers raided an army base in the city of Valencia.

According to Deutsche Welle, the websites of subscription service DirecTV and telephone provider Digitel were also targeted in the cyberattacks.

"Our struggle is digital," the hacker group stated. "You close the streets, we do so to networks."

The 'hacks' appear to have taken the form of traditional defacements - when the homepage of a website is hijacked to display a message of the hackers' choosing.

While a number of the compromised websites remained offline late into Monday 7 August, the homepage dedicated to the president was later restored.

On Twitter, The Binary Guardians circulated the message it posted onto the hacked websites – which included lines from Charlie Chaplin's famous protest movie "The Great Dictator".

"Today more than ever we need you, soldier. We will be fighting for the rights of all Venezuelans through networks. You brave people, go out to the streets and support those brave soldiers. This dictatorship has its hours counted," the group wrote, as translated via Google.

Venezuela coup
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his weekly broadcast in Caracas Miraflores Palace/Reuters

The collective has now claimed that more digital disruptions are likely to take place.

"We will be carrying more attacks, but we don't know for sure with what frequency we will be [launching] them," one of the alleged hackers told IBTimes UK. The contact, who declined to provide a name, continued: "We are globally based, and we hope for more rebellions.

"You see, we are just an addition to the efforts on the streets, we just want to make the people feel supported, there's several millions of Venezuelans against this government and for a good reason."

When asked about the reasoning behind its operations, the contact said: "It is clear that the Supreme Court is just the 'legal' arm for the dictatorship, passing every rule that the dictator (Nicolas Maduro) passes, and anybody that goes against the government is harassed.

"The brutal repression that the government forces have done against the people and the impunity they face, the fact that civilians are being taken to military courts should say something."

The Binary Guardians said it aims to provide support to any rebels in Venezuela. The contact wrote in clear English and was quick to respond to questions from IBTimes UK.

He or she continued: "We do not have direct contact with military groups organising the rebellions on the streets so we do not know for sure what the next steps will be [...] but we just hope our efforts show the people that we are willing to take all the possible action against a bigger enemy, which is the dictatorship that we currently have."

The group's Twitter account currently has more than 13,000 followers and was created in July 2017. Its social media bio states: "Struggling for freedom and the rights of people. We repudiate censorship and despise corrupt governments. We do not fear anything or anyone."

A representative of the hacking collective told Reuters that he was a Venezuelan national but declined to give any more insight into the mysterious group.

The army base raid was reportedly led by a former National Guard captain called Juan Carlos Caguaripano. In a document obtained by Reuters, he described the move as "military action to re-establish constitutional order", and a way "to save the country from total destruction".

You can check out the comprehensive IBTimes UK picture gallery here.

Reuters reported Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino saying two of the men who targeted the base had been killed and eight others had been captured. Roughly 10 more were on the run. Meanwhile, Maduro has vowed that the rebels will receive the "maximum penalty".