The struggle for freedom of information on the Internet has just reached a new level, as supporters of the infamous site Wikileaks launched a series of cyber attacks that they called “Operation Payback.”
Reports by Reuters, as well as just about every other news groups paying attention today, stated a slew of websites were “attacked” by a group that went under the name “anonymous.” Anonymous is a group that has been communicating on forums, social networking sites (primarily Twitter), and IRCs about the clamp-downs on Wikileaks, both from governments and corporations. Anonymous isn’t just a group of concerned citizens, however. They’re hackers — or, if you prefer, “hacktivists.” Anonymous vocally took responsibility for the cyber attacks.
The website attacks consisted of a “distributed denial of service attack,” where floods of virtual traffic was sent to the sites, causing a shortages of bandwidth that slowed or stopped the sites. The site most visibly targeted was Mastercard, who recently withdrew its services from Wikileaks, preventing them from accepting donations via Mastercard. Other sites targeted included Amazon (who denied Wikileaks hosting services), PayPal and the Visa site (who both denied donation processing), the website of the Swedish finance branch (who shut down the bank account of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange), the website of the Swedish prosecution authority (which is pursuing the sexual assault charges against Assange), and several others.
Most of these sites were shut down, at least temporarily. However, the damage may run deeper than was originally suspected. While Mastercard quickly made a statement that all information was still secure and cardholders would not be impacted by the attacks, some services still aren’t working correctly — with secure online transactions using SecureCode being one of them.
Those interested in freedom of information on the Internet or government transparency are watching closely; this may just be one battle in the world’s first “cyberwar.”