WikiLeaks supporters hack websites of credit card giants

During Christmas season when online shopping is on rise, pro-WikiLeaks activists launched cyber assaults.

Berlin: Hackers in support of WikiLeaks have
brought down the websites of credit-card giants Visa and
MasterCard in the ongoing cyber-war between sympathisers of
the whistle-blower site and firms trying to stifle it.

During Christmas season when online shopping is on rise,
pro-WikiLeaks activists launched cyber assaults -- code-named
"operation payback" -- a few days ago and succeeded in
temporarily arresting the websites of Visa, MasterCard, Swiss
payment transaction company PostFinance and PayPal.

The centre of their strategy is to cripple these websites
by bombarding them with millions of bogus visits.
Online retailing giant Amazon reportedly also had to fend
off a number of attacks by WikiLeaks` sympathisers yesterday.

These companies withdrew services from Julian Assange`s
site after it leaked secret US diplomatic cables, causing
major embarrassment for Washington. Wigglers has been using
its accounts with these institutions for collecting donations,
a major source of the website`s income.

CEO of PayPal Osama Beider has admitted that his company
closed the whistle-blower`s account following pressure from
the US government.

The cyber attacks are also motivated by the campaigners`
anger over the arrest of Assange in London over alleged sex
crimes committed in Sweden. He is awaiting a hearing in the
British capital on whether the site`s founder should be
extradited to Sweden to stand trial there.

The attackers have reportedly temporarily brought down
the website of the Swedish government.
Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy was arrested in the Hague on
Wednesday in connection with the attacks. He admitted of
participating in the attacks against Visa, MasterCard and
PayPal, police have claimed.

Cyber security researchers say the pro-WikiLeaks
activists, an alliance of hacker groups Anonymous and 4chan,
have been launching their retaliatory attacks through
distributed denial of service (DDoS) and most of them were
using the Low Orbit Ion Cannon Tool (LOIC).

They brought down the PostFinance website with a LOIC
regiment involving around 400 computers, while several
thousand of them were needed to cripple the Visa website,
according to German computer journal `ct Magazine`.

`Hacktivists` are building up their army of computers
that hackers control remotely (botnet) to launch new attacks,
the magazine said quoting security researchers.

Till now, their attacks have been launched predominantly
by volunteers, who manually control the LOIC, which is an
open-source tool.

In the past few days, there has been a surge in demand
for the LOIC and thousands of copies were downloaded,
indicating that the activists are bracing to intensify their
cyber war, experts said.

The supporters of WikiLeaks said in a `manifesto` that
their intension is not to destroy the infrastructure of the
concerned organisations, but only to "disturb" their internet
presence.

In an appeal on their websites, they have called upon the
online community to download the LOIC and join them in their
campaign against the websites hampering the work of WikiLeaks.

PTI