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‘Hactivist’ Claims Responsibility For Wikileaks Outage

November 29, 2010

A computer hacker temporarily took down the Wikileaks website on Sunday as 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables were released on the site.

“Jester,” which is the name the hacker goes by, calls himself a “hacktivist for good” and is taking credit for the take down of Wikileaks.

The site came under a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Saturday shortly after it began releasing the first batch of leaked documents.

Jester has targeted extremist websites in the past and claimed responsibility of the Wikileaks take down on his Twitter feed, @th3j35t3r.

“www.Wikileaks.org – TANGO DOWN – for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations #Wikileaks #fail,” the message from “Jester” said.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at computer security firm F-Secure, told AFP that he believes the hacker could have carried out the attack on Wikileaks.

“He’s demonstrated previously that he is capable of launching effective denial-of-service attacks, and he’s claimed the responsibility for this one as well,” Hypponen said by email. “He has the capability and the motive.”

Classic DDoS attacks take place when legions of “zombie” computers, which are machines infected with viruses, are commanded to simultaneously visit a website.

A massive onslaught of demand can overwhelm servers, slowing service or knocking it offline completely.

Wikileaks eventually went ahead and began publishing the U.S. diplomatic memos at another address.

Jester describes himself on his website as: “Hacktivist for good. Obstructing the lines of communication for terrorists, sympathizers, fixers, facilitators, oppressive regimes and other general bad guys.”

James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert and a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Associated Press that it is unlikely the U.S. or some other government would use denial-of-service attacks against Wikileaks.

He believes that it is “a bunch of geeks who’ve decided they’re annoyed with Wikileaks.”

“Denial of service is usually the amateur’s approach,” he told the AP on Sunday. “Usually it’s the hacker community.”

He said that he has never heard of the U.S. trying to attack a website like this.

“Usually they’re more interested in exploiting, that is getting into Wikileaks to figure out what’s going on. Or they’re interested in doing some kind of damage, and denial of service really doesn’t do any damage.”

An attack like this would only stall Wikileaks and would not prevent them from releasing the 250,000 documents.

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