Monday 18 December 2017

WikiLeaks: Supporters say PayPal next target

Hundreds of protestors march through Brisbane city centre to protest against the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Australian, Julian Assange. Photo: AP
Hundreds of protestors march through Brisbane city centre to protest against the detention of WikiLeaks founder, Australian, Julian Assange. Photo: AP

William MacLean in London

SELF-STYLED internet "hacktivists" have thwarted efforts to end their online war on institutions seen as enemies of WikiLeaks.

Last night they promised a new wave of cyber assaults on targets, starting with PayPal.

The campaign to avenge WikiLeaks against those who have obstructed its operations, calling itself 'Operation Payback', has already temporarily brought down the websites of credit card giants Visa and MasterCard, and of the Swedish government.

A succession of US institutions has withdrawn services from WikiLeaks after the website published thousands of sometimes embarrassing secret US diplomatic reports that have caused strains between Washington and several allies.

Online retail and web-hosting powerhouse Amazon last week stopped hosting WikiLeaks's website, and yesterday it briefly became the main target of the pro-WikiLeaks campaigners -- before they admitted it was too big for them, for the moment.

"We cannot attack Amazon, currently. The previous schedule was to do so, but we don't have enough forces," read one message on Twitter.

The activists said they would instead attack PayPal, which has suspended the WikiLeaks account that the organisation had used to collect donations. MasterCard and Visa had also become targets after stopping processing donations.

Just after 6pm yesterday evening, the websites of PayPal, Amazon -- a key Christmas shopping destination -- MasterCard and Visa all appeared to be functioning normally.

Facebook said it had removed the activists' Operation Payback page yesterday because it was promoting a distributed denial of service attack -- a form of freezing websites by bombarding them with requests -- that is illegal in many countries.

The campaign also disappeared briefly from Twitter before reappearing in a different guise. Twitter declined to comment.

In an online letter, Anonymous, a loose-knit group, said its activists were neither vigilantes nor terrorists. It added: "The goal is simple: win the right to keep the internet free of any control from any entity, corporation, or government."

Some of the motivation for the cyber campaign appears to stem from anger at the arrest in Britain of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden. He is in jail in London, awaiting an extradition hearing.


Assange said last week he had expected clampdowns in countries such as the United States that championed free speech, and had deliberately picked providers like Amazon to host its data to test that theory.

In Moscow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the arrest of Assange showed the West was hypocritical in its criticism of Russia's record on democracy.

When asked about leaked US diplomatic cables which cast him as Russia's 'alpha-dog' ruler of a corrupt bureaucracy, Putin questioned whether the US Foreign Service was a "crystal clean source of information".

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay voiced concern yesterday at reports of pressure being exerted on private companies to halt financial or internet services for WikiLeaks.

Irish Independent

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