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Supporters launch web attacks as corporate world puts squeeze on WikiLeaks

Who’s who in the WikiLeaks cyber war as Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and other major corporations hit by ‘hactivists’.

Sarah Palin's personal credit card details and website were hacked after she said Julian Assange had
Sarah Palin's personal credit card details and website were hacked after she said Julian Assange had "blood on his hands"

A CYBER WAR involving some of the world’s biggest companies on one side, and the supporters of the WikiLeaks website on the other, has broken out on the internet.

A group calling itself ‘Anonymous’ is targeting the corporations perceived to be putting a squeeze on WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, who is currently in jail in London, in a concerted attack it is calling Operation Payback.

MasterCard, Visa, Amazon and Paypal have all be subject to a hacking attack after freezing the accounts of the whistleblowing website. The Swedish government website was also brought down this morning.

So who’s who in the WikiLeaks cyber war?

On the one side…

  • Julian Assange
  • ‘Anonymous’: A shadowy group, which describes itself as a “cultural phenomenon” and specialises in ‘distributed denial of service’ (DDoS) attacks, in which thousands of computers targets a website’s host with requests for information, causing it to crash. Anonymous has previously targeted the Church of Scientology.

A spokesman for Anonymous, calling himself Coldblood – he’s understood to be a 22-year-old computer programmer based in London – last night released this statement:

Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets. As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means. We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people versus the government. The idea is not to wipe them off but to give the companies a wake-up call.

On the other…

  • PayPal: targeted after it stopped processing WikiLeaks payments.  A PayPal executive admitted the firm stopped processing WikiLeaks’ payments after the US State Department “said it was illegal”. According to TechCrunch, Paypal’s Osama Bedier said: “State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward.”
  • Mastercard: a six-hour stoppage on the secure code system on Wednesday affected hundreds of thousands of shoppers worldwide, preventing online transactions from being processed.
  • Visa: website brought down for a period on Thursday night. A spokesman said it was experiencing ‘heavier than normal traffic’.
  • Sweden: the Swedish government website regeringen.se, was offline for several hours overnight. Visitors were greeted with a message saying the site could not be reached. The banking arm of the Swiss postal service and websites of a Swedish lawyer and Swedish prosecutors were also hit.
  • Sarah Palin: the former Alaskan governor and possible future US Presidential candidate Sarah Palin claimed to ABC news yesterday that Wikileaks supporters had hacked her personal credit card information and the website of her political action committee. Palin had called Assange “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands”.
  • Joe Lieberman: The US Senator said that the New York Times should be “investigated” for publishing articles containing details of the WikiLeak-ed cables. His website went down for about 12 minutes, and anonymous spam faxes were sent to his office.
  • EveryDNS.et: the website was attacked by “hactivists” on Tuesday, in revenge for it ceasing to deal with WikiLeaks on December 3.
  • Twitter: No attack on Twitter yet. However, there is speculation that it may come under attack after it suspended the @anonymous account.
  • Amazon: the online retailer cancelled its web-hosting services with WikiLeaks saying it had violated their “acceptable use policy”. It has not been attacked yet but is suggested to be another target for ‘Operation Payback’.
  • Facebook: the social networking site also shut down the Anonymous group’s account so might be vulnerable to attack.

The representative of the ‘Anonymous’ group called ‘Coldblood’ told BBC’s Radio 4 today that “the campaign is not over from what I’ve seen, it’s still going strong”.

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About the author:

Jennifer O'Connell

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