WikiLeaks may be spilling into your online holiday shopping and bill paying plans with cyber activists hitting MasterCard, VISA, and PayPal.
Yesterday, today and for who knows how long you may find that your plans to do online banking, shopping and bill paying may come to a screeching halt as “cyber activist” hack into and attack many popular websites and services like Mastercard.com, VISA, PayPal and Amazon. Why are these cyber activists mounting a hacker war against these major retailers and bankers? In retaliation for these services no longer being made available to the organization WikiLeaks; and its organizer/founder Julian Assange.
WikiLeaks, is an ant secrecy organization that collects information and then releases it to the public (where and how they get this information is part of an ongoing investigation). Their founder and organizer was arrested in Great Britain this week after releasing 250,000 State Department documents in which US diplomats were, quite frankly less than complimentary towards their counterparts throughout the world. WikiLeaks’s Web site also was responsible for posting of hundreds of thousands of secret Pentagon documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Once released, many other news organizations started picking up the story and began publishing articles based on the archived documents WikiLeaks released to them.
But, that’s not all Julian Assange is accused of. British judges recently denied Sweden’s request for extradition of Assange, who is accused of sexual molestation and rape of two women. The women claim that sex was consensual, however it became nonconsensual when condoms were not in use.
He however, maintains his innocence. His supporters call the charges a “smear campaign.”
A group of activists recently took credit for the cyber attack on Mastercard.com and the crashing of the VISA.com website on Wednesday afternoon. They are launching a “distributed denial of service” attack to punish companies, organizations and individuals that they feel are “hostile” to Assange and the organization Wikileaks. The group “Anonymous” is taking credit for the slowing down and halting of some of the United States major banking systems, calling it “Operation Payback.” Prior to their foray into the banking industry they also targeted companies that attempted to stop Internet file sharing and downloads.
What is a distributed denial of service attack?
Simply, it is an overload of usage on a particular site and servers. It’s like standing in line on Black Friday and wondering why the lines aren’t moving so you can get through the checkout lane. You just keep waiting and waiting for the website to work, and if it does it moves slowly, much like the 6 inches forward you just moved.
These cyber activitists are flooding the sites of PayPal today, because they no longer permitted processing of donations through PayPal to benefit WikiLeaks. VISA and MasterCard came under attack for similar reasons. These financial institutions may be operating under the terms of their service agreements that does not allow them to be used for any illegal purpose.
But these banking institutions are not the only ones paying to play with cyber terrorists, but the Swedish prosecutor’s office and the attorney representing the alleged victims have also been targeted.
So far, Facebook and Twitter have been left out of the frenzy, even though at one point Twitter shut down a user profile and tweets involving and discussing the attacks. Minutes later a new one popped back up. But should they attempt to deny these cyber supporters of WikiLeaks their right to “free speech” users shouldn’t be surprised to see their favorite social networking sites down also.
According to the New York Times one activist used the analogy of the civil rights struggle for the cyber attacks, comparing it to a “sit in.”
What the hackers don’t seem to realize is yes, they have overloaded servers and made holiday purchases difficult, but they have also made it hard on the average American that they claim to be protecting by releasing information. PayPal is a service used by thousands of people not just for commercial purposes but also for small businesses and freelancers who use these services to issue invoices and get paid. Without those funds, those waiting today are unable to transfer money, pay their bills and buy their groceries. Does that really garner support for their cause?
With all the holiday shopping that needs to be done, bills that need to be paid, and charitable organizations you need to make donations to, maybe for a few days you may want to consider doing all that the old fashioned way; with an envelope and a stamp.