Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hackers Go on the Offensive to Defend Wikileaks

Posted By on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Cue the chorus, R.E.M., cause it just may be the end of the world as we know it. Just in time for the new Tron movie, an actual 'Net revolution is in the process of playing out in real time.

An unaffiliated network of hackers calling themselves "Operation Payback" are on the offensive against anyone they see as attempting to undermine the website, WikiLeaks.org.

Today alone, they've brought down both Visa's and Mastercard's websites. Also targeted were PayPal, Amazon and a Swiss bank, all of which denied service to WikiLeaks or its editor, Julian Assange.

The organization describes itself as "an ongoing campaign by Anonymous against major anti-piracy and anti-freedom entities."

Their method is to send out a tweet announcing a target and tell hackers to "load their weapons," the another to "fire."

Within seconds of their sending a tweet announcing "FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!," Visa.com was inaccessible.

Facebook just banned the hackers' page, saying it violated their terms of service.

Of course, the stated mission of Operation Payback is to strike back at anyone who opposes WikiLeaks, even multi-billion dollar corporations. So Facebook may have just put the crosshairs on its back.

WikiLeaks, which publishes leaked government and corporate documents with the goal of transparency, has been under siege in recent weeks for leaked diplomatic cables that have revealed everything from the quirks of foreign leaders like Muammar el-Qaddafi and Vladimir Putin to Saudi Arabia's attempts to persuade the United States to bomb Iran.

An arrest warrant was issued for Assange in Sweden—on charges supporters claim are trumped up—and Congressional Republicans have called for the WikiLeaks to be labeled a terrorist organization and for Assange to be tried for treason, despite his not being an American citizen.

Interestingly, a tweet this morning from Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked confidential papers shedding light on the decision-making process during the Vietnam War, said, "EVERY attack now made on Assange and @wikileaks was made against me and release of Pentagon Papers"

So far, Operation Payback seems to be winning, an action which raises serious questions about our dependence on Internet infrastructure.

But for those of us sitting back and watching a real-life thriller unfold in 140 character installments, the only real question now is: Who's next?

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