"Operation Payback" Hacktivists Exact Revenge on PayPal, MasterCard For WikiLeaks Ban

In light of the number of attacks that WikiLeaks has undergone in the past week an organization known as Anonymous has begun Operation: Payback to bring retribution down on the companies that would, in their words, censor WikiLeaks' information.

WikiLeaks has revealed some startling information about how diplomats interact on the world stage; but the organization has also revealed just how far different groups will go to make sure this information is read. In light of the number of attacks that WikiLeaks has undergone in the past week – including a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, servers pulled by Amazon, donations pulled by PayPal and MasterCard, and Assange’s personal troubles – an organization known as Anonymous has begun Operation: Payback to bring retribution down on the companies that would, in their words, censor WikiLeaks’ information.

PandaLabs Security firm first reported that the WikiLeaks webpage at WikiLeaks.org was down on November 30th for just over 24 hours, caused by a single hacker’s DDoS attack. This was when the first set of cables were being released. Little did that lone hacker know that he or she would spur into action one of the most prominent hacktivist groups on the net.

Anonymous is a group of hackers who usually target the entertainment industry, with their main goal being the freedom of information – including pirated videos, music and documents – online. The Guardian quotes one member as saying that they are “quite a loose band of people who share the same kind of ideals, and wish to be a force for chaotic good.”

They often target websites of large corporations to shut them down temporarily. They are said to have their roots on 4Chan, an image board known for its sometimes off-color content. While they are usually an ad hoc, decentralized organization, they’ve come together to respond to the WikiLeaks ordeal in a big way.

Organizing largely through its Operation:Payback Twitter account, Anonymous decided it would point its guns at PayPal for its first act of WikiLeaks retribution. PayPal has permanently restricted WikiLeaks’ donation-collecting account as of December 3rd, a move that many claimed was motivated by pressure from the US government (a theory that has since been proven right). Anonymous floated a poster around the internet to advertise its impending attack on PayPal:

The DDoS attacks that Anonymous organized against PayPal shut its blog down for over eight hours.

On December 6th, the group targeted postfinance.ch, the website of the bank that took down Assange’s defense fund. As PandaLabs reports, this is the first time a DDoS attack has been successful against a bank. Altogether, they took the site down for more than 24 hours, interrupting banking services.

The group then moved on to the website of Assange’s Swedish prosecutors.

Through December 7th, Anonymous targeted EveryDNS, the DNS provider that revoked WikiLeaks.org, the website for Joe Lieberman (who went on record as leaning on Amazon and other companies who were supporting WikiLeaks), and Sarah Palin’s website.

In the early hours of December 8th, Anonymous began targeting MasterCard.com, taking the site down for at least 7 hours.

PandaLabs sums up Anonymous’ attacks so far:

“We have observed 256 service interruptions and 94 hours of combined downtime since these attacks started on December 4th”

The Anonymous group organizes through a chatroom, and their attacks are announced via Twitter. They are freedom of information protesters using the information technology at their fingertips as weapons. We can expect to similar attacks as these cloaked defenders of WikiLeaks continue to rally for the total, worldwide freedom of information they fight for.

As this article was written, Anonymous announced an impending attack on Visa.com, another company which has severed ties with WikiLeaks, via its Twitter account: