The WikiLeaks supporters behind attacks on various websites – including Mastercard and Visa, have sent footage to Channel 4 News of a cyber strike being carried out.
The attackers, who call themselves Operation Payback, have in the past few days temporarily crashed the websites of the world’s two biggest credit card companies, PayPal, American politicians Sarah Palin and Joe Leiberman, and that of the lawyer representing the women who have accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sex crimes.
All of the parties have either spoken out against the jailed WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or severed ties with the whistle-blowing website, hampering the continued dissemination of secret US cables and making it difficult to donate to the organisation.
The social networking site, Twitter, removed Operation Payback’s account yesterday.
“We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal.” Operation Payback posting
Before that happened, members posted a message, which read: “We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal.”
Channel 4 News has had email correspondence with and spoken to several members of the group, – a branch of Anonymous – which in the past has been responsible for similar cyber attacks against scientolgists.
An Operation Payback member, who did not want to be named, sent Channel 4 News a video of them carrying out an attack on Mastercard today.
Another group member and former hacker, James, told Channel 4 News that after Twitter suspended the group’s account several days ago, the social networking site would become a target.
He said: “If Twitter continues to suspend the account, it will fall next.”
Members have also accussed Twitter of keeping WikiLeaks-related posts out of its Trending Topics list.
At 2pm today, the group posted a message on a new Twitter account, announcing that it would also launch an attack against Amazon.com at 4pm.
James said that he believed personal friends of Mr Assange, who was remanded in custody in Wandsworth prison after presenting himself to police on Tuesday, were involved in the series of coordinated attacks, called Distributed Denial of Service attacks (Ddos).
Mr Assange is facing possible extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations and will appear before Westminster Crown court next Tuesday.
The attacks use software caled LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) to deluge the website with requests, overloading its servers.
James said that there were possibly thousands of people for at least 40 different countries carrying out the attacks and anyone can join by following an easy-to-use guide and downloadable software, which they have published.
“We are individuals with a shared conviction brought together via a common language; the internet,” he said.
“There are no geographical headquarters, no affiliations, no spokespeople. Just an agreement on the purpose and the shared effort to get it done.”
The targets of the attacks are selected with a “democratic show of virtual hands, but it’s very clear who the targets are…if an organisation or government stands in the way of that, they are a target of Operation Payback,” he said.
“Targets are scoped for vulnerabilities, details amassed, and passed to the masses. How they choose to act upon that information is up to them.”
Another so-called ‘hacktivist’ – London-based George – said that many of the attackers were former hackers who had the capability of carrying out more serious attacks, including tampering with credit card details of targets.
Yesterday, the former US Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin – who has called for Mr Assange to be hunted down like the Taliban – saw her website (sarahpac.com) hit by the same attack.
At 3.15 today, the website displayed a message saying: “The page you were looking for does not appear to exist.”
Mrs Palin said that her family’s credit card accounts has also been hacked into.
“No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange’s antics.This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.” Sarah Palin on the hack attack on her website
She said: “No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange’s antics.This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”
But the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said she was concerned about pressure being applied on private companies to halt financial or Internet services for WikiLeaks.
She said such moves could violate the right to freedom of expression.
“I am concerned about reports of pressure exerted on private companies including banks, credit card companies and Internet service providers to close down credit lines for donations to Wikileaks, as well as to stop hosting the website,” she told a news conference in Geneva.
Hacker George said: “Anyone can carry out the Ddos attacks and they are working very effectively. But if these companies and opponents of free speech continue to complicate the distribution of new leaks, they will find we are capable of even more serious damage; financial damage, viruses, etc.
“Rest assured, the skills, experience and motivation are all there.”
The website of Joe Lieberman, the US Senator who publicly demanded that companies withdraw services from WikiLeaks, has been another target
MasterCard’s website was forced offline yesterday after the company banned donation to WikiLeaks, reportedly affecting the processing of payments, with Visa, PayPal and the SwissPost bank also hit.
The website of the Swedish government, regeringen.se, was also reportedly taken down for a few hours last night, as was that of Claes Bergstrom the lawyer of the two women who claim Assange raped or assaulted them and the lawyer representing Mr Assange in Sweden.