December 8, 2010

MasterCard Website Target Of WikiLeaks-Related Attacks

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was jailed on Tuesday, prompting the website to publish a new set of documents as advocates of Assange's work claimed responsibility for a series of cyberattacks against former WikiLeaks partner MasterCard.

The 39-year-old Assange, who surrendered to police in the UK on Tuesday, was remanded to custody pending a hearing next week regarding possible extradition to Sweden. According to Raphael G. Satter of the Associated Press (AP), the WikiLeaks founder faces "molestation and unlawful coercion stemming from separate sexual encounters in August with two women in Sweden."

On Wednesday, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson announced via Twitter that "the latest batch of cables" had been released on Tuesday night, and "our media partners released their next batch of stories."

"We will not be gagged, either by judicial action or corporate censorship," he added, according to Satter. "Wikileaks is still online. The full site is duplicated in more than 500 locations. Every day, the cables are loaded more than 50 million times."

Also on Wednesday, the website of MasterCard, who earlier in the week had cut off payments to the controversial website, had come under attack by hackers claiming to champion WikiLeaks' cause. According to Esther Addley of The Guardian, the hackers--who refer to themselves as 'Anonymous'--"appear to have orchestrated a DDOS ('distributed denial of service') attack" on the MasterCard website as part of what they are dubbing "Operation: Payback."

"The group, which has been linked to the influential internet message board 4Chan, has been targeting commercial sites which have cut their ties with WikiLeaks," Addley added. "The Swiss bank PostFinance has already been targeted"¦ after it froze payments to WikiLeaks, and the group has vowed to target Paypal, which has also ceased processing payments to the site. Other possible targets are EveryDNS.net, which suspended dealings on 3 December, Amazon, which removed WikiLeaks content from its EC2 cloud on 1 December, and Visa, which suspended its own dealings yesterday."

The group also targeted the website of the Swedish prosecutor's office, the AFP reported on Tuesday, while the hacker's own website had also been the target of DDOS attacks.

Prior to the MasterCard attack, BBC News interviewed one member of Anonymous who went by the name of 'Coldblood.' The individual told the British news organization that "websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets" and that the group felt that WikiLeaks had "become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs. the government." Coldblood added that the idea was "to give the companies a wake-up call."


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