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ALL OUT CYBER WAR erupts over WikiLeaks – Hackers take MasterCard offline

‘All-out cyber war’ erupts over WikiLeaks: ‘Anonymous’ hackers take MasterCard offline

By Stephen C. Webster Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Sites for Visa, PayPal, Sen. Lieberman also targeted

Yesterday, MasterCard Worldwidebecame the latest financial institution to face the wrath of online hackers acting to avenge secrets outlet WikiLeaks over the credit card provider’s declaration that the site was engaged in “illegal” activities.

Not 36 hours after MasterCard froze payments to WikiLeaks, their website was down as hackers with the group “Anonymous” launched a new wave of cyberattacks. The company said its customers could still use their credit cards for purchases, but the PayPoint retail network told a BBC reporter that MasterCard’s “SecureCode” service had been taken down, interrupting service all over.

The hackers also claimed responsibility for taking down the website for Swiss bank PostFinance, after it froze an account with over €31,000 set aside for site founder Julian Assange’s legal defense.

Assange was arrested in London yesterday on an Interpol warrant out of Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning in an investigation of sexual assault.

“Anonymous” has dubbbed their cyber warfare campaign “Operation Payback,” threatening to “fire” on any entity that attempts to censor WikiLeaks.

Service to mastercard.com was unavailable at time of this writing. The website for the Swedish prosecutor’s office was also offline, as was a site for the lawyerrepresenting Assange’s accusers.

Secure Computing Magazine called what’s happening “an all-out cyber war,” noting that massive botnets were attacking each other by mid-Wednesday morning as even the ‘Anonymous’ group had come under fire from another group of hackers that sought to defend US interests. That group, which was successful in taking WikiLeaks offline in late November, was also thought to be behind attacks on the ‘Anonymous’ website,anonops.net, which was still online at time of this writing.

A “botnet” is Internet slang for a massive shadow network of computers that have been unknowingly hijacked by malicious software. They are typically used for nefarious purposes, such as distributed denial of service attacks.

Credit card processor Visa also suspended payments to WikiLeaks on Tuesday morning, but it’s website was functional at time of this story’s publication. It too was expected to come under denial of service attacks.

“Operation Payback” also promised to attack PayPal, the online payment service that last week cut off WikiLeaks and froze over $60,000 in electronic donations, but their site was still online Wednesday morning. Topics trending on Twitter suggested an attack may also target the micro-blogging site.

Others to suffer downtime this week include PayPal’s blog, EveryDNS — the domain name service provider that pulled WikiLeaks off it’s .org address — and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) .gov website. Lieberman’s staff was responsible for prompting Amazon.com to take WikiLeaks off its US-based cloud servers.

Researchers with Panda Security have been tracking the wave of attacks, blow-for-blow.

In recent days, the online to-do over WikiLeaks has been called the world’s “first serious infowar” and a “war for control of the Internet.”

“What is this all about? And what does it have to do with censorship and Operation Payback?” ‘Anonymous’ asks on their website.

“While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas.

“We can not let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.”

Raw Story will continue following the latest developments.


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