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WikiLeaks supporters attack Web sites of MasterCard and other opponents

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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wikileaks, internet, security, hackDespite the incarceration of founder Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is not going away quietly. In fact, Web-savvy supporters of the online whistle-blowing operation have gone on the offensive, launching cyber attacks against Web sites of some of the organizations and people perceived to have wronged Assange and his operation.

Mastercard, which earlier this week announced it would not enable payments to WikiLeaks via its credit-card processing systems, has had its Web site rendered inaccessible several times in the past day. Visa made a similar announcement, and its Web site was likewise down Wednesday afternoon. PayPal, which ended its affiliation with WikiLeaks, was up and running as of post time, but cyber security firm PandaLabs reports that has experienced 77 interruptions equaling a total downtime of more than eight hours in the past 24 hours.

Attacks on sites connected to WikiLeaks opponents or critics (not counting MasterCard or Visa) have created 256 interruptions of service and a total of 94 hours of downtime in the past day, according to PandaLabs. Other sites recently downed by cyber attacks, according to PandaLabs, include those run by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (outspoken in condemning WikiLeaks‘s "cablegate" campaign), Sarah Palin (who likened Assange to a terrorist) and Claes Borgstrom (the lawyer representing the two girls who claim Assange sexually assaulted them this the summer). Assange is currently jailed in England and has been denied bail.

A movement calling itself Operation: Payback, a campaign headed by an anonymous group "against major anti-piracy and anti-freedom entities," is taking credit for much of the digital mayhem. Ironically, the Web site, which is linked to Operation: Payback’s Twitter page, was likewise inaccessible Wednesday afternoon. Operation: Payback has made a name for itself in recent months by launching cyber attacks against organizations opposed to intellectual property piracy, including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). They now obviously have a new cause.

The most recent attacks against organizations opposed to or distancing themselves from WikiLeaks follow last week’s attacks against WikiLeaks‘s own Web site. One attacker took down the site for a 28-hour period on November 30 and December 1, according to PandaLabs security analyst Sean-Paul Correll.

The weapon of choice in these cyber salvos is the distributed denial-of-service attack (DDOS), in which computers are programmed to flood Internet servers for sites with requests for data to the extent that those servers cannot function. These computers are often enlisted by malicious hackers without the knowledge of the computers’ owners.

Operation: Payback logo courtesy of

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  1. 1. wolfkiss 8:21 pm 12/8/2010

    "malicious hackers"?…no more malicious than existent power structures trying to choke a legal website and journalism operation from receiving willing donations.

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  2. 2. Jan Cosgrove 10:13 am 12/9/2010

    Ensoh …. this is the real world.
    Hitech is being employed, including by interests supporting governments who appear willing to bend the rule of law when they aren’t happy. It’s not just about theories, test tubes and microscopes, science lives and works in a political environment.

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  3. 3. Ensoh 11:38 am 12/9/2010

    Thanks, Jan, got that: But I still see the article as "Event Reporting" as opposed to "Science Reporting." Almost looks like an AP release that was snagged for filler. . . . But I could be wrong.

    On the other hand, I’d hate to see Science forced to conform to any particular perspective or politics — Mine, or anyone else’s. What say we just toss Supertexan another six-pack, and move on after he quiets down?

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  4. 4. wolfkiss 1:42 pm 12/9/2010

    Just listened to a relatively balanced discussion on the radio. A guy from the Heritage foundation, a guy from EFF, and a guy in the middle:

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  5. 5. Jan Cosgrove 1:53 pm 12/9/2010

    Supertexan: I am not against the US, I just travelled to NJ State to bury my Dad. But what Wikeleaks is doing is First Amendment stuff. You have a glorious constitution, fear when governments want to suppress our hearing what others have to say. One of the things that marks the good guys from the others is that the rule of law says that our governments aren’t just free to do what they want when ordinary people do things they don’t like or when we ask questions, or to keep concealing the truth from us. I rather like reading what US diplomats says about some of the scumbags and useless jerks with whom we keep company.

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  6. 6. Spiff 3:06 pm 12/9/2010

    Perhaps WiliLeaks will do the American public a favor and disclose the million dollar secret past of Pres. Obama! Many millions would be grateful!!!

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  7. 7. Teako 3:12 pm 12/9/2010

    Interestingly the only people who have broken the espionage laws are the people who passed the documents on to Wikileaks.

    Remember, it was Danial Ellsburg who was at risk of being convicted, not the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers story.

    The people who are critisizing Wikileaks have it all wrong and are just taking one more shot at a free press; a free press that they simply don’t want even though the Constitution guarentees it as a right. A FIRST Ammendment right.

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  8. 8. Teako 3:14 pm 12/9/2010

    Does anybody find it unusual that when there is an announcemebnt that there willbe a very large dump of diocuments about the financial/banking fiscal crisis that all of these finacial institutions in concert start to find ways to stop the funding of Wikileaks.

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  9. 9. frankboase 4:28 pm 12/9/2010

    So now we see who is employing Master Card don’t we?

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  10. 10. frankboase 4:31 pm 12/9/2010

    Please "supertexan" take your head out of the sand.

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  11. 11. E-boy 6:53 pm 12/9/2010

    Calling the federal government of the U.S. Secretive and controlling is a bit of a stretch when compared with MOST other governments on earth.

    I think it’s a bit of a joke to suggest Mr. Assange be held accountable under U.S. law since he isn’t a citizen of this country. The individual responsible for leaking that information is not only a citizen here but a member of the military and is presently cooling his heels where he belongs, in jail.

    Having said that, I do believe some sense of responsibility is in order. Real damage to diplomatic relations can result in real people bleeding and dying. Having spent the vast majority of my adult life in the military I understand and respect the need for some secrecy in dealing with national security.

    The current administration of our government is doing a great deal to make government more transparent. They are actually placing a lot of their inner workings on line so people can view and even participate in more of the process. We also have the freedom of information act, which many organizations utilize quite effectively in whistle blowing operations and, I might add, do so without breaking any laws or depending on other persons to break them to get their information. I think what’s going on with Mr. Assange has less to do with "freedom" and more to do with him having an axe to grind with our government.

    I’m actually a proponent of "classical liberalism" in government. I prefer a smaller government and more open operations. Having said that, even the founding fathers, recognized that secrecy does have a place in government.

    I get very tired of extremists who think they have the cure for what ails the world. They nearly always do damage and, as yet, have utterly failed to make the world a better place. The very nature of the material Mr Assange is leaking bears out my criticism. If he’d found evidence the U.S. Government was doing something like, say, medical experimentation on the citizens of a foriegn nation (something we did, in fact, do and revealed under the freedom of information act decades later) I’d pat him on the back and send him a check. Instead he found embarrassingly candid diplomatic assessments. This isn’t save the downtrodden stuff here. It’s embarrass a country he isn’t fond of stuff.

    Anyway, people are awful quick to assume the charges against him in Sweden are trumped up. It could be he’s not a hero. It could be he’s just a jerk with a penchant for mistreating women.

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  12. 12. llewellyn 10:36 pm 12/9/2010

    Hey there supertexan!
    You state, (among other things), "You’re a loon and a liar, which is fine and necessary for a global warmatologist."
    Perhaps you’d like to read up on that gas laws thingy, you know, the principles involved with pressures and volumes with changing energy domains?
    I’ll start for you. "Look dick look! See the balloon? See it expand as it gets hotter?" "No Jane, no. You’re just a warmatolgist!" Spot bites Dick.
    "Here Tex here! Have a brownie."

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  13. 13. Dennis Nilsson, Sweden 5:31 pm 12/10/2010

    It is obviously the case that the British legal authorities are being lent upon by the United States and that the plan is to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden, who have probably already agreed at a political level to extradite him to America, where he will face political charges totally unconnected to the the alleged sexual offence that he is currently being held under.

    Once in the United States he can expect to receive the same level of justice and treatment that Alexandr Solzhenitsyn received in the Soviet Union.

    Alexandr Solzhenitsyn recieved Nobel Prize for his books chronicled the horrors of the Soviet gulag system.

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  14. 14. Debashish 8:19 am 12/13/2010

    Headlights and tail lights delivered free to you door from More:

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  15. 15. rikkus 5:46 am 12/21/2010

    "the two girls who claim"

    They are women. Was this intended to make Assange sound like a paedophile, or were you just being condescending?

    Link to this

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