Cyberattacks In Support of WikiLeaks Pose PR Dilemma

An activist hacker group called Anonymous is taking responsibility for an orchestrated cyberattack against Mastercard and says that it’s planning other attacks in order to “wreak revenge on any organization that lined up against WikiLeaks,” according to the NY Times.

The story says that Anonymous doesn’t have a leader, and one of the activists stated in a telephone interview that 1,500 hackers were lined up to attack various companies and individuals. On the list of those that have been hit are, PayPal, and PostFinance, the financial side of the Swiss postal system.

This situation poses a big strategic question for PR pros working with companies that have come in contact with controversy.

(Updates after the jump.), for example, heard from angry members of the public and even Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s office because WikiLeaks had been using their Web server. Hackers against WikiLeaks tried attacking them then, the Wall Street Journal says.

Amazon cuts off WikiLeaks, and they’re still a target for backlash elsewhere. And in this case, it’s coming from a loosely-organized group that can possibly attack the heart of the company’s business.

It very well could be impossible to extract yourself from a controversial situation without upsetting someone on either side. But how do you cause the least amount of friction?

Update: CNBC’s Net Net blog reports that hackers are now taking aim at Visa. An announcement was made on the Twitter account for Operation Payback.

Update: ABC News is reporting that Sarah Palin has been attacked by cyberhackers.