Fighting fire with fire, the loose-knit collective of hacker activists known as Anonymous has launched a serious of Distributed Denial of Service attacks on several sites that recently severed ties with whistle-blowing organization WikiLeaks under pressure from various governments.
WikiLeaks itself has been the target of similar DDoS attacks, which were cited last week by a New Hampshire-based DNS provider that stopped hosting the wikileaks.org domain, which no longer works.
According to the BBC, Anonymous has launched attacks against PayPal, which over the weekend stopped processing transactions for WikiLeaks, and the Swiss bank PostFinance, which froze the assets of Julian Assange, the organization's founder.
From the BBC:
A member of Anonymous who calls himself Coldblood told the BBC that "multiple things are being done". "Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets," he said. "As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means." "We feel that Wikileaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs. the government," he said.
Now the Internet itself is becoming a battleground.
Anonymous also said it has created more than 500 mirror sites of WikiLeaks, which now is operating under the domain wikileaks.ch, an Internet property owned by the Swiss Pirate Party.
Other companies cutting ties with WikiLeaks include Amazon.com and Seattle-based Tableau. The former denies succumbing to U.S. government pressure, claiming instead that WikiLeaks violated Amazon's terms of service, which for some reason went unnoticed until Amazon was called last Wednesday morning by the office of U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
WikiLeaks has come under intense criticism and scrutiny since releasing hundreds of classified U.S. State Department cables, many of which have embarrassed diplomats because of their blunt and unflattering assessments of American allies. U.S. officials claim the leaked cables jeopardize the lives of informants and others in the intelligence community. WikiLeaks says it possesses 250,000 more classified cables and will continue to release them to several news organizations and post them on the Internet.
Assange was arrested Tuesday morning after turning himself in to British authorities on a warrant from Sweden accusing the WikiLeaks founder of committing acts of "unwanted sexual activity." He is being denied bail. (My colleague Kevin Fogarty has a good analysis of the Swedish charges here.)
Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.