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A series of "Denial-of-Service" attacks were launched Wednesday against MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal and other organizations by hackers who claimed that the attacks were in retribution for the decision by those organizations to deny service to WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, back to camera, is driven to Westminster Magistrates Court in London after being arrested, 12/07/10. (photo: AP)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, back to camera, is driven to Westminster Magistrates Court in London after being arrested, 12/07/10. (photo: AP)



MasterCard, Amazon, PayPal
"Counter-Cyber-Attacked"

By Ravi Somaiya and John Markoff, The New York Times

08 December 10



Petition in Support of Julian Assange

Also See:
WikiLeaks' Twitter Page: http://twitter.com/wikileaks
WikiLeaks' Support Page: http://wikileaks.ch/support.html
Lieberman Attacks New York Times Over WikiLeaks Documents: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/07/wikileaks-joe-lieberman-new-york-times-investigated


small army of activist hackers orchestrated a broad campaign of cyberattacks on Wednesday in support of the beleaguered antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, which has drawn governmental criticism from around the globe for its release of classified American documents and whose founder, Julian Assange, is being held in Britain on accusations of sex offenses.

Targets included Mastercard.com, which had stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks; Amazon.com, which revoked server space from the group; the online payment service PayPal, which cut off its commercial cooperation, and the lawyer representing the two Swedish women who have accused Mr. Assange in the sex case. The hackers also accused Visa of stopping the processing of donations for Wikileaks, and Visa.com was also affected.

By Wednesday afternoon, a counterattack had begun with Netcraft, a British Internet monitoring firm, reporting that the Web site being used by the hackers to distribute denial-of-service software had been suspended by a Dutch hosting firm, Leaseweb.

The hackers - a loosely affiliated group who call themselves Anonymous - continued to give instructions for the denial of service attacks via a Twitter account until it was suspended later in the afternoon.

Anonymous had vowed to take revenge on any organization that lined up against WikiLeaks. The group claimed responsibility for at least the Mastercard attack, and, according to one activist associated with the group, was conducting multiple other attacks.

That activist, Gregg Housh, said in a telephone interview that 1,500 people were on online forums and chatrooms including Anonops.net, mounting mass and repeated "denial of service" attacks on sites that have moved against Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks in recent days.

The hacker army has rallied around the theory that all the actions against the organization and against Mr. Assange, including the rape accusations, are politically motivated efforts to silence those challenging authority.

"To all of us," Mr. Housh said, "there is no distinction. He is a political prisoner and the two things are completely entwined."

In an online chatroom at Anonops.net, activists who announced their nationalities from around the world - "hello from Sierra Leone" - "hi from Austria" - talked openly of the attacks and said they would need 5,000 people to effectively paralyze PayPal. Many also plotted a rumor campaign to further destabilize Mastercard - suggesting that others spread stories that credit card numbers were not safe.

Mr. Housh said there had been talk among the hackers of a campaign against Mr. Assange's Swedish accusers, but that it remained "a touchy subject, so a lot of people don't want to be involved."

The women were named on Web sites supportive of Mr. Assange just a few days after their allegations surfaced in late August. But a Web search shows new blog posts in recent days that name the women and try to discredit them. It was not clear whether there was any link to Anonymous, or to a concerted campaign of any kind. Swedish law precludes the naming of the women, and the authorities have referred to them so far only as Ms. A and Ms. W.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Mastercard confirmed that the company's Web site was brought down as a result of "a concentrated effort to flood our corporate Web site with traffic and slow access," but said that card transactions were not compromised. The company, he said, was making concerted efforts to get its site back up, and security teams were working to prevent further outages. The initial decision to deny service to WikiLeaks, he said, was "Mastercard's alone," and was not made under government pressure.

Visa issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon saying that its Web site was "experiencing heavier than normal traffic" though it did not say why. The company said that it was "taking steps to restore the site to full operations within the next few hours" and that its payment processing network, which handles cardholder transactions, was functioning normally.

A PayPal representative confirmed a series of attacks, but said that while the Website had been slowed, it remained "fully operational."

PostFinance, the Swiss postal system's financial arm, which closed Mr. Assange's account after saying he provided false information by saying that he resided in Switzerland, was also under attack Wednesday. Marc Andrey, a spokesman for PostFinance, said that the company had been under serious assault, "an overload organized by friends of WikiLeaks we think," since Monday evening. The attack blocked the Web site for several hours, and it remains unstable, he said. The company has taken active security measures and is bracing itself for another battle.

Mr. Housh, who has worked on previous campaigns with Anonymous but disavows any illegal activity himself, said it was the first time the group had enough firepower to bring down well-secured blue chip companies like Mastercard. "No tactics have changed this time," he said, "but there is so much support and there are so many people doing it that sites like that are going down."

The Anonymous group, which gained notoriety for their cyberattacks on targets as diverse as the Church of Scientology and the rock musician Gene Simmons, released two manifestos over the weekend vowing revenge on those who moved against WikiLeaks after the organization's recent release of classified diplomatic documents from a cache of 250,000 it had obtained.

"We fight for the same reasons," said one. "We want transparency and we counter censorship."

Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was jailed in Britain on Tuesday after being denied bail in a London court hearing on a warrant for his extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sexual offenses. His accusers have said that consensual encounters became nonconsensual when condoms were no longer in use; in the Tuesday hearing, the court heard the allegation that Mr. Assange had unprotected sex with one of the women as she was sleeping.

On the courthouse steps, his lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters that support shown for Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks so far was "the tip of the iceberg."

In words that now seem prophetic, he added that the battle for WikiLeaks and its founder's future was "going to go viral."

Some Internet experts drew a distinction between cyberattacks and what they call "hacktivism," saying the Anonymous moves were more aptly described as the latter. "These are not attacks by national states or criminals," Marc Rotenberg, director of the nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, wrote in an e-mail. "They are launched by political protesters who are seeking to disrupt business activity much like those who have engaged in boycotts and other forms of political protest have done in the past. So far, the protests appear peaceful, with the aim to be disruption of activity rather than actual destruction of property."

Twitter, which was threatened with attack by the 4chan Web site for blocking discussions of WikiLeaks, issued a statement early in the day saying that it had not censored any of the terms related to the controversy.

"Twitter is not censoring #wikileaks, #cablegate or other related terms from the Trends list of trending topics," the company said in a statement. "Our Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking' breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The list is generated by an algorithm that identifies topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously."

The company noted that a number of factors may come into play in determining which terms are identified by the Trends list.


Ravi Somaiya reported from London and John Markoff from San Francisco. Ashlee Vance contributed reporting from San Francisco.

 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
-3 # Activista 2010-12-09 00:20
hacking internet with viruses is criminal - done by governments, hackers.
Readersupportednews.org will be affected - yes - it is a war - loose loose game.
My computers - browser is freezing - find what coutry is responsible - mostly China and shut their ISP down.
 
 
-4 # Gary1 2010-12-09 09:36
Agreed. These attacks will have little effect on these companies or any governments involved. They will only hurt people trying to use the services who have nothing at all to do with it...
 
 
+2 # Activista 2010-12-09 10:22
These attacks will have big effect on the financial companies - they loose the little trust they have.

BTW PayPal is owned by EBAY - reps like Meg Whitman - stop buying crap on EBay.

"Payback" hackers/scum are destroying the last fiber of free communication - Internet. It is not difficult to destroy any complex system - like it is not difficult to steal a book from the library - this is pure vandalism.

One example of virus used in warfare is one against Iran plants. Most affected was India - Siemens Windows control systems in the hospital - people died.
This is state (our friend in the ME) terrorism - Siemens and others will not use MS Windows OS in the future.

RSN is literally cutting branch they are sitting on. Now they can reach millions - after the hackers shut them down - they will be able put up dozen samizdats.
 
 
+6 # Glen 2010-12-09 14:23
The censoring has begun. When attempting to re-read a couple of articles on RSN, the first of which concerned wikileaks dumping a great many documents in the case of arrest or attacks, I was cut off from access with the usual, "you might to try", etc. No other articles have been cut off.
 
 
+4 # Mukul Khurana 2010-12-09 00:26
I am all for releasing information that powers deem secret. I am not sure how I feel about diplomatic messages being released. That being said, things are now in the open. Let's see how developments shape up as a reaction to all the information floating around.

The fact that all European nations are basically American lapdogs is no surprise. I guess when the stability of a world order that benefits the West gets shaken, everyone shows their true colors. Assange is being framed. He is too dangerous to the establishment (luckily, he hasn't been killed).

I smiled when I read what people were doing in support of a man with huge courage. On the other hand, as in war, the outcome of actions (even good ones) is never clear. We are entering uncharted territory in world history...
 
 
+12 # IGiveUp 2010-12-09 00:35
I agree with all those who support WikiLeaks. At a time when we (in the USA) need action in important areas (stop Welfare for the Wealthy; repeal Don't Ask, Dont Tell; support DREAM Act; etc . . .) all we can think of is that we're embarrassed by what we wrote. And so we dredge up our attacks on Daniel Ellsberg and direct them toward Julian Assange. Shoot the messanger (and some idiots mean that literally) and ignore the message. I live in a truly sick country. I worked to elect those in office now. But today . . . I Give Up.
 
 
+1 # geraldom 2010-12-09 11:21
Quoting IGiveUp:
At a time when we (in the USA) need action in important areas (stop Welfare for the Wealthy; repeal Don't Ask, Dont Tell; support DREAM Act; etc . . .) all we can think of is that we're embarrassed by what we wrote.


First of all, I'm not gay, although I do support gay rights & gay marriage, but my feelings towards DADT is somewhat complex. I don't like what my country has become, a fascist state that's willing to commit genocide anywhere in the world for world empire, & the tool that is used to commit this genocide is our military.

DADT has me between a rock & a hard place because I don't like any discrimination of any kind, but to actually want to serve in a military that is being used as a tool to commit genocide, & to want to serve in a military in which you have to follow orders to commit such crimes, doesn't make any sense to me.

As far as the "Dream Act" is concerned, & I'll be very blunt here, I'm adamantly against it until they remove the military requirement, that one must serve in the U.S. military to achieve citizenship, that one must become a forced murderer to achieve U.S. citizenship. It makes no sense.
 
 
+4 # B. 2010-12-09 00:50
Ok you computer guru's out there, these are the day's you've been waiting for. How cool would it be if their "card" processing sites were knocked off line in the middle of the shopping season ?
Those of you who have the knowledge, use it for the greater good, and get to work !!
 
 
+2 # Ben Makinen 2010-12-09 01:19
Cool
 
 
+1 # Merle 2010-12-09 01:43
Hackers doing their thing - this is a whole new world....
 
 
+6 # Leo Ray Ingle 2010-12-09 01:47
Can anyone really believe that it is coincidental that Julian Assange's chief accuser, Anna Ardin, had, for years, worked with and for anti-Castro forces and the CIA in Cuba, to the extent she was "kicked out" of Cuba?

If we rely on Assange's Australian attorney's statement, he is being charged with "having consensual sex in Sweden without a condom (or with a condom that subsequently broke)". In Sweden that "crime" is punishable by a term of imprisonment of a minimum of two years for "rape".

There are recorded tweets between Anna Ardin (Miss A) and her co-accuser, Sophia Wilén (Miss W) boasting of their respective conquests after the “crimes”? After the "crimes" they threw a party for Julian Assange.

The underlying plan, of course, is to get Julian Assange to Sweden. Then, because Sweden is a country that cooperated with the U.S. in horrendous night-flight "renditions" to torturer nations like Syria, he can be flown at night to the United States, likely directly to Guantanomo.
 
 
+5 # Dr.Roger Dittmann 2010-12-09 02:05
A case for massive cyber civil disobedience. Not just transparency and accountability in government are at stake; not just freedom of speech and information, but freedom itself;
 
 
-15 # ffarron 2010-12-09 03:55
Credit card issuers refusing to process contributions and credit card users to boycott the servers are like kids playing cops and robbers! By what authority do these entities get into the controversy? To decide what ought and what ought not to be in the public domaine is the business of Congress. Senator Sanders of Vermont recently forced the Fed to release data relating to the bailout of various corporations that the FED had kept secret and the Fed had to put them on a gov. website available to the public.
But for some individual who has neither the authority nor the requisite knowledge to make these decisions is ludicrous and outrageous and may in fact endanger people working in the service of the United States.
I am disappointed that RNS is sponsoring petitions in favor of this irresponsible and arrogant individual - I had hoped for a more grown-up attitude on your part!
 
 
-9 # Annette Smith 2010-12-09 08:51
The most sane statement I have seen on this matter. Thank you.
 
 
0 # othermother 2010-12-11 02:44
Quoting ffarron:
To decide what ought and what ought not to be in the public domaine is the business of Congress. Senator Sanders of Vermont recently forced the Fed to release data relating to the bailout of various corporations that the FED had kept secret and the Fed had to put them on a gov. website available to the public.
But for some individual who has neither the authority nor the requisite knowledge to make these decisions is ludicrous and outrageous and may in fact endanger people working in the service of the United States.


At least two problems with your position, ffarron: 1/ 'knowledge and authority' clearly do not go together when agents of government lie to those parts of government charged with oversight--some thing we have seen over and over again. 2/ Our elected mis-representat ives have so much crap in their front yards that I'm afraid their moral, if not their legal, authority is severely compromised.
 
 
+3 # Jawbone Grouch 2010-12-09 04:37
Underground groups have often saved the social structure's buns from it's self and it's attempts to keep the corruption of governments as deeply opaque from revealing the thievery against the people.

It was ever thus. It shall ever be.
It is the nature of the beast.
And the beast is usually politics...
and money...and banks...and Madoff's...
and Abramoff's...th e list is endless...
 
 
+3 # Jane Gilgun 2010-12-09 05:31
I'm all for freedom of speech, and I am against prosecuting wikileaks. If some governmental conversations have to be kept secret for national security, then the government should do a better job of maintaining security. Secrecy should not be a cover-up for ineptitude, lawbreaking, and unethical conduct.

I am disturbed by the affirmation of "payback" on the part of the cyberattack that a few thousand wikileaks people mounted against Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, and Amazon. Payback is revenge, retaliation, and evening the score.

The way to stand up to abuses of power is boycott, organized protests, organizing of various sorts. Don't use their services. Protest in any way you want, but don't evoke payback as a motive. War, civil war, rape, murder, and terrorism all are rooted in desires for revenge. Stand up to abuses of power, but do not use the tactics of oppressors. Paulo Friere warned the oppressed not to become oppressors when and if they gain power.

I sure hope I do not become subject to payback. I am willing to take that risk. I am exercising freedom of speech. Respect that. I am standing up for people that revenge hurts. Respect that.
 
 
+1 # Gary1 2010-12-09 09:27
Well written Jane. Thank you!
 
 
0 # othermother 2010-12-11 02:55
I respect your position; but I also know that power has been protecting itself from citizens' seeking legal redress. Example, our president voted while still in the Senate against a proposed law to permit lawsuits against companies which participated in illegal surveillance of citizens' phone calls and email. My US home is in an area where one such company has a virtual monopoly on land telephone and computer communications. I like and use the boycott principle, but it will be difficult in practice here because so many of the major online payment agencies have collaborated to shut off Wikileaks' funds. My only way to avoid the services of MC and paypal is to pay by debitcard and hope that the bank that issued it isn't part of the problem. Dream on.
 
 
+13 # AllnightVi 2010-12-09 05:46
Julian Assange is a hero. We need to do everything we can to help him, financially, with his web site getting his information out to the public, as a friend and collogue, with more information and more stories, with these trumped up legal hassles, and most importantly, keeping him alive. I'm sure that a lot of people and governments want him dead. He is a true hero, and is doing his best to let the people know what is really going on in the world. Please help him in any way you can. I will do the same. May God Bless him and keep him safe. Don't let these governments run our lives and keep their real motives and directives secret. God help us all, this great man is showing us how little our governments think of us.
 
 
-15 # Annette Smith 2010-12-09 08:56
He is not a hero. He is an arrogant, self-serving jerk. I am all for transparency. But not in a wreckless manner that may do harm to others serving the rest of us. And not by individual's whose supporters resort to tactics that cause damage to the public whose interest they purport to be working for!
 
 
0 # othermother 2010-12-11 03:00
Quoting Annette Smith:
He is not a hero. He is an arrogant, self-serving jerk. I am all for transparency. But not in a wreckless manner that may do harm to others serving the rest of us. And not by individual's whose supporters resort to tactics that cause damage to the public whose interest they purport to be working for!


Arrogant and self-serving? This often goes with the hero's role. That doesn't mean it's not heroic. Too bad we live in an imperfect world and don't get to make our heroes unless we're willing to become them. What have you done lately in the interests of transparency?
 
 
+5 # Activista 2010-12-09 10:30
Wikileaks should release 250 000 documents NOW on all of the mirrors. Not to be used by corporate media for propaganda.
I am sick of Julian soap opera. Even FOX started to play it.
The 0.01% released so far is mined and censored by special interest to promote their goals - like war on Iran.
 
 
-1 # Nels Wight 2010-12-09 06:58
Going Viral sounds good, doesn't it?
 
 
+7 # Angel Sides 2010-12-09 14:07
Humanitarians can not support humanitarian issues if the people of the world only know what is in or edited, spun and bought and paid for media. Julia Assange should be allowed to keep shedding light on what is truelly happening out there.
 
 
+3 # Montana 2010-12-09 15:58
A new era has begun: Hactivism. This is the potential of the internet, atleast until THEY shut it off. Fascinating form of public protest. Just when I thought the Gen X, Y, and Z were numb and uninformed, how wonderful to see them wake and rise...... there is hope in the world again. Now, who can hack Liberman's Senate site?!
 
 
-1 # Activista 2010-12-09 16:23
"Operation Payback" is a mob - compared to Hitlerjugend burning books. It is like releasing chemical/nuclea r bomb and hope that only their "enemy" will die.
Other attacks by "patriotic" gangs from China and USrael are even worse.
Internet is network of networks - and all will be affected.
 
 
+3 # rom120 2010-12-09 17:29
Activist, quote...."compa red to Hitlerjugend burning books..." please do not talk about something you have no clue about. If you had any credibility before it's shot, regurgitating crap you read, heard or seen somewhere, taking it for fact instead of educating yourself. There is more book burning now in the US, Canada, Germany just to name a few than there ever was in the time you mention.
 
 
+1 # rob 2010-12-09 19:41
Viva hackers!! Keep hacking the kleptocracy!!!
 
 
0 # VicenteAry 2011-07-25 04:57
Fourteen individuals were arrested by the F.B.I. Tues for suspicion of preparing a cyber-attack against eBay’s PayPal website. All those indicted are speculated to be members of Anonymous, a loose-knit organization of cyber hackers with a political agenda. Cyber-crime is apparently on the rise this week. Here is the proof: 14 arrested for planned PayPal cyber-attack
 

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