Hackers strike at MasterCard to support WikiLeaks

MasterCard latest in a string of US-based Internet companies to cut ties to WikiLeaks in recent days amid intense US government pressure.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 8, 2010 22:40
2 minute read.
Mastercard sign on bank

311_Mastercard logo. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LONDON — Hackers rushed to the defense of WikiLeaks on Wednesday, launching attacks on MasterCard, Swedish prosecutors, a Swiss bank and others who have acted against the site and its jailed founder Julian Assange.

Internet "hacktivists" operating under the label "Operation Payback" claimed responsibility in a Twitter message for causing severe technological problems at the website for MasterCard, which pulled the plug on its relationship with WikiLeaks a day ago.

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PayPal Vice President Osama Bedier said the company froze WikiLeaks' account after seeing a letter from the US State Department to WikiLeaks saying that its activities "were deemed illegal in the United States."

"It's honestly just pretty straightforward from our perspective," he told a web conference in Paris.

Undeterred, WikiLeaks released more confidential US cables Wednesday. One cable revealed that American officials lobbied the Russian government to amend a financial bill the US felt would "disadvantage US payment card market leaders Visa and MasterCard."

The pro-WikiLeaks vengeance campaign appeared to be taking the form of denial-of-service attacks in which computers are harnessed — sometimes surreptitiously — to jam target sites with mountains of requests for data, knocking them out of commission. xPer Hellqvist, a security specialist with the firm Symantec, said a network of web activists called Anonymous — to which Operation Payback is affiliated — appeared to be behind many of the attacks. The group, which has previously focused on the Church of Scientology and the music industry, is knocking offline websites seen as hostile to WikiLeaks.

"While we don't have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons," the group said in a statement. "We want transparency and we counter censorship ... we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy."


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