Today WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, wanted in connection with sex-related charges in Sweden, turned himself in to the police in London. And while Assange’s personal troubles escalate, so does the online war over WikiLeaks.
Last week came the cyber attack against WikiLeaks.org, which hacker “Jester” claimed to have organized.
On his blog, Jester describes himself as a”hacktivist for good” and someone who is “obstructing the lines of communication for terrorists, sympathizers, fixers, facilitators, oppressive regimes and other general bad guys.” [Los Angeles Times]
That disrupted the site’s operation and left WikiLeaks scrambling. But this week the tide of hacking has turned: Hackers operating under the names Operation Payback or Anonymous are targeting sites that have withdrawn support from WikiLeaks during the current controversy.
Noa Bar Yossef, senior security strategist for Imperva, commented via e-mail to say, “Operation Payback’s goal is not hacking for profit. In the classical external hacker case we see hackers grab information from wherever they can and monetize on it. In this case though, the hackers’ goal is to cripple a service, disrupt services, protest their cause and cause humiliation. In fact, what we see here is a very focused attack – knocking the servers offline due to so-called ‘hacker injustice’.” [PC World]
One of those distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks targeted PayPal, which went down for hours on Saturday. The site was one way for donors to support WikiLeaks financially, but PayPal shut off payments (MasterCard and Visa have now done the same). The bank in Switzerland that froze Assange’s assets, PostFinance, endured a cyber attack, too.
And then anti-WikiLeaks forces struck back.
Meanwhile, anonops.net, a site used by Anonymous to announce their attack plans, came under a massive DDOS attack earlier on Monday, apparently by those opposed to WikiLeaks. In an ironic twist, users attempting to reach the site were being redirected to PostFinance’s Website late Monday evening. [Computer World]
The companies that have cut off relationships with WikiLeaks have argued that their rules prohibit customers from engaging in or facilitating illegal activities–but WikiLeaks supporters say these companies are just giving in to government pressure. Et tu, Twitter? Amid all the allegations, even the microblogging platform has come under fire.
Twitter has also come under criticism from some who believe the microblogging site may be censoring trends devoted to WikiLeaks. Twitter trends reveal the most popular topics being tweeted. But Web site blogs such as OSNews, OSDir, Safety First, and StudentActivism.net have reported findings that terms such as #wikileaks and #Assange have not been trending nearly as heavily as they should given the amount of news and discussions surrounding WikiLeaks. In response to such criticism, someone identifying himself as Twitter engineer Josh Elman e-mailed Angus Johnston of the StudentActivism.net site to defend his company saying that “Twitter hasn’t modified trends in any way to help or prevent WikiLeaks from trending.” [CNET]
While WikiLeaks searches for ways to acquire funding and survive, it appears that at least its data is safe: WikiLeaks’ call for sites to mirror its content has yielded mirror sites in the hundreds, making it nearly impossible—if not impossible—to target them all.
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