Arts, Culture & Media

Wikileaks cyberwar

A global group of online activists is making life difficult for companies who don't want to do business with WikiLeaks. The websites of Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have all become targets of the group, which goes by the name Anonymous. The World's Clark Boyd has more on the group, and its goals. Hackers have declared what they're calling a "data war" against companies that refuse to do business with the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks. A global group of volunteers is using software usually associated with online crime to bring down the sites of Mastercard, Visa and PayPal. The online "hackivists" are calling their effort "Operation: Payback." A group calling itself "Anonymous" says it's responsible for the attacks. A young man who would only give his name as Coldblood went on the BBC this morning to explain. "Anonymous" has targeted mainly companies which have decided, for whatever reason, not to deal with WikiLeaks. Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal. Coldblood also said that while he hasn't personally been taking part in the attacks. But, he claimed, Anonymous sees this as a �war of data.� �We're trying to keep the internet open and free for everyone, just the way Internet has been, and always was, but in recent months and years, we've slowly started seeing governments, the EU, creep in and try to limit the freedom that we have on the Internet.� Both the MasterCard and Visa websites have experienced intermittent outages due to these �denial of service� attacks. British security expert Paul Mutton explained that this is happening because many volunteers worldwide are joining together. �There's lots and lots of computers involved, which simply hammer the website with lots of traffic,� he said. �And if the website is then unable to handle that amount of traffic, it stops working for legitimate visitors to that site, hence, �denial of service.� It doesn't take a computer genius to join in with Anonymous. All you have to do is download a file� your machine then gets marching orders remotely to participate in attacks. For its part, WikiLeaks said it has nothing to do with Anonymous. Kristin Hraffnson is a spokesman for WikiLeaks. �This was not organised by us or encouraged by us, this is something that's an expression of outrage against these companies and has nothing to do with us directly.� But Hrafnsson went on to accuse the credit card companies, and Amazon, of �bowing under political pressure.� He condemned their decision to terminate the contracts with WikiLeaks. For the company's themselves, the attacks have been a rude wake-up call. Jason Moon runs a company that tests other company's computer security. He said even big companies like MasterCard have been caught flat-footed. �I mean these hackers can sort of hop from left foot to right foot. If a wall is over there, then we take a different tack and attack from this trajectory. If they lock that door, we go through the back window. It's very easy to move around and switch your tactic. But the organizations under attack�it's very difficult for them to do so.� For it's part, PayPal slightly reversed direction today. It said it would release remaining funds to WikiLeaks, but wouldn't let the group collect any more. Companies aren't the only targets. Hackers have also gone after the Swedish government website. Goran Lindblad is a Member of the Swedish Parliament. He isn't very happy about what's happening. �I would call that a four-letter word, but I can't do that on the radio,� Lindblad said. �It is of course a criminal act, and the same level as when the Russians blocked Estonian websites for political reasons. And this is just about the same, and it's not acceptable.� But Anonymous, for one, said it intends to not only continue the attacks, but broaden them as the group sees fit. Today, the group said that it is intermittently being counter-attacked in the same way it is attacking others. It also released a manifesto today reading: �Anonymous is not an organisation�and it most certainly is not a group of hackers.� The Manifesto continued, �Anonymous is an online living consciousness, comprised of different individuals with, at times, coinciding ideals and goals.�

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