December 8th, 2010
By: Stephen A. Webster
MasterCard Worldwide confirmed on Wednesday morning that the “MasterCard Directory Server” had gone down and that cardholders were experiencing service interruptions. The revelation was made as a massive denial of service attack was staged against MasterCard, ostensibly for refusing further payments to secrets outlet WikiLeaks.
“Please be advised that MasterCard SecureCode Support has detected a service disruption to the MasterCard Directory Server,” MasterCard said. “The Directory Server service has been failed over to a secondary site however customers may still be experiencing intermittent connectivity issues. More information on the estimated time of recovery will be shared in due course.”
Yesterday, MasterCard Worldwide became the latest financial institution to face the wrath of online hackers acting to avenge secrets outlet WikiLeaks over the credit card provider’s declaration that the site was engaged in “illegal” activities.
Not 36 hours after MasterCard froze payments to WikiLeaks, their website was down as hackers with the group “Anonymous” launched a new wave of cyberattacks. The company said its customers could still use their credit cards for purchases, but the PayPoint retail network told a BBC reporter that MasterCard’s “SecureCode” service had been taken down, interrupting service all over.
The hackers also claimed responsibility for taking down the website for Swiss bank PostFinance, after it froze an account with over €31,000 set aside for site founder Julian Assange’s legal defense.
Assange was arrested in London yesterday on an Interpol warrant out of Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning in an investigation of sexual assault.
“Anonymous” has dubbed their cyber warfare campaign “Operation Payback,” threatening to “fire” on any entity that attempts to censor WikiLeaks.
Service to mastercard.com was unavailable at time of this writing. The website for the Swedish prosecutor’s office was also offline, as was a site for the lawyer representing Assange’s accusers.
Secure Computing Magazine called what’s happening “an all-out cyber war,” noting that massive botnets were attacking each other by mid-Wednesday morning as even the ‘Anonymous’ group had come under fire from another group of hackers that sought to defend US interests. That group, which was successful in taking WikiLeaks offline in late November, was also thought to be behind attacks on the ‘Anonymous’ website, anonops.net, which was still online at time of this writing.
A “botnet” is Internet slang for a massive shadow network of computers that have been unknowingly hijacked by malicious software. They are typically used for nefarious purposes, such as distributed denial of service attacks.
Credit card processor Visa also suspended payments to WikiLeaks on Tuesday morning, but its website was functional at time of this story’s publication. It too was expected to come under denial of service attacks.
“Operation Payback” also promised to attack PayPal, the online payment service that last week cut off WikiLeaks and froze over $60,000 in electronic donations, but their site was still online Wednesday morning. Topics trending on Twitter suggested an attack may also target the micro-blogging site.
Others to suffer downtime this week include PayPal’s blog, EveryDNS — the domain name service provider that pulled WikiLeaks off it’s .org address — and Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I-CT) .gov website. Lieberman’s staff was responsible for prompting Amazon.com to take WikiLeaks off its US-based cloud servers.
Researchers with Panda Security have been tracking the wave of attacks, blow-for-blow.
In recent days, the online to-do over WikiLeaks has been called the world’s “first serious infowar” and a “war for control of the Internet.”
“What is this all about? And what does it have to do with censorship and Operation Payback?” ‘Anonymous’ asks on their website.
“While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same reasons. We want transparency and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas.
“We can not let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship. This is why we intend to utilize our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy.”
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December 6th, 2010
By: Mara Gay
Julian Assange may be getting some unlikely company.
If Nigeria has its way, former Vice President Dick Cheney will be next on Interpol’s international “wanted” alert, for bribery charges related to his time as the CEO of Halliburton.
Nigeria’s anti-corruption agency says it plans to file charges against Cheney in connection with $180 million in bribes a Halliburton subsidiary paid to Nigerian officials to help secure a $1.2 billion contract during his tenure as head of the company. “We are filing charges against Cheney,” Femi Babafemi, the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission chief, told Reuters today.
Halliburton admitted to the charges in a U.S. court last year and paid $579 million in civil penalties, but Cheney himself was not implicated.
Now, though, Nigerian officials want to try Cheney, and on their own turf at that. Apparently they plan to ask Interpol, the international police agency, to issue an alert for the former vice president in the next three days, similar to the one issued for WikiLeaks head Assange. The alert “will be issued and transmitted through Interpol,” Godwin Obla, chief counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, told Bloomberg.
December 6th, 2010
By: Deborah Hastings
Seemingly everyone wants a piece of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange this week, with Interpol, Sweden, the United States, Australia, Sarah Palin, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill O’Reilly joining the posse.
Palin says he should be hunted down “like al-Qaida.” O’Reilly calls him a “sleazebag.” Government officials want him tried for espionage, and Interpol is after him for alleged sex crimes. Others want him banned from the Internet.
Good luck with all of that. The 39-year-old recluse and self-described misfit — whose latest secret-documents dump comprises more than 250,000 diplomatic memos — has been on the lam for months.
So where is he? This month he’s apparently been in London, where he gave an interview to Forbes magazine, posted online this week after the chat was recorded at an undisclosed London apartment. The Australian native has cut and dyed his hair again to avoid detection, and promised that his site’s rage-inspiring and ongoing upload of U.S. State Department documents was only the beginning — of his latest controversy.
Up next is the disclosure of thousands of damning internal documents showing corruption by a major American bank, he told Forbes. But Assange won’t say which bank or give specifics of what it did wrong. That’s not unusual for a man who is both revered and reviled.
Assange has been laying low for several weeks now, staying with friends, using credit cards owned by others or paying in cash, canceling public appearances at the last minute or sending others in his stead. He is dogged by rape allegations in Sweden and is now under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and his native Australia.
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said Assange was under criminal investigation by federal agents. “This is not saber-rattling,” he told reporters at a news conference, The Associated Press reported. Saying the Obama administration condemns the publication of classified State Department documents, Holder said the posts endangered national security and the safety of diplomats abroad.
Secretary of State Clinton said much the same. “Some mistakenly applaud those responsible,” Clinton said in Washington this week. “There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people.”
Not true, Assange shot back in a series of e-mails to ABC News from a clandestine hideout. “U.S. officials have for 50 years trotted out this line when they are afraid the public is going to see how they really behave,” he wrote.
Apparently, only one country welcomes him — Ecuador, which offered him residency, Reuters reported today. The South American country is highly critical of U.S. doctrines and policies.
Earlier this month, Sweden issued an international sex crimes warrant against Assange in connection with two incidents in which women claimed rape and molestation. Assange said both interludes were consensual sex. This week, he was placed on Interpol’s wanted list, according the agency’s website.
Assange fled to Sweden in August, seeking protection for WikiLeaks under the country’s whistle-blowing laws after he posted nearly 400,000 classified documents pertaining to the Iraq war. Weeks before, he had posted some 77,000 classified Pentagon documents on the Afghan conflict.
Then the rape allegations surfaced, and Assange was on the run again.
In October, he sat for an interview in London with The New York Times, sporting a beanie cap and a wispy beard and speaking just above a whisper lest he be overheard. The former computer hacker said, essentially, that he was doing the Lord’s work in publishing leaked secret and classified documents.
“By being determined to be on this path, and not to compromise, I’ve wound up in an extraordinary situation,” he said.
December 6th, 2010
By: Lauren Frayer
The American company that provided WikiLeaks’ domain name pulled the plug overnight because of cyber-attacks that it said threatened the other half-million websites it hosts. But within hours, the whistle-blower website had popped back up with a new Swiss domain name.
The company, EveryDNS.net, issued a statement on its website saying that it provided WikiLeaks’ domain name until 10 p.m. EST Thursday, “when such services were terminated.”
“WikiLeaks.org has become the target of multiple distributed denial of service attacks. These attacks have, and future attacks would, threaten the stability of the EveryDNS.net infrastructure,” the company said in another statement cited by The Associated Press. It said it alerted WikiLeaks to the shutoff 24 hours ahead of time.
The whistle-blower website has been the target of unknown hacker attacks after publishing three huge troves of classified U.S. documents from the military and diplomatic services, which has outraged Washington. Some American lawmakers have called for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Australian citizen, to be prosecuted under the U.S. Espionage Act.
Authorities in Sweden are seeking Assange’s detention for questioning in a sexual assault investigation, and Interpol has issued a “Red Notice” for his arrest, though he’s not been formally charged. The reclusive 39-year-old has said he believes the sexual assault allegations are part of the same hacker campaign to attack WikiLeaks and discredit him.
After EveryDNS severed WikiLeaks’ domain name, the website wikileaks.org ceased to exist. But within hours, the website was available with a new suffix: wikileaks.ch. The content has also popped up on several other websites, including one called Cablegate. In the past, Assange has said his group has contingency plans in place if its Web infrastructure is disabled somehow. It’s unclear whether the Swiss domain name and Cablegate are part of those plans.
On Twitter, WikiLeaks acknowledged that its domain name had been “killed” and asked for donations to “KEEP US STRONG,” it said in all-caps. Later, it posted its new Swiss domain name with a message saying, “WikiLeaks moves to Switzerland.”
EveryDNS is following in the footsteps of the online megastore Amazon.com, which initially allowed WikiLeaks to temporarily use its servers to distribute its latest leak of U.S. diplomatic cables, after cyber-attacks on the website last weekend. But after pressure from Sen. Joe Lieberman and other U.S. lawmakers, Amazon decided to evict WikiLeaks from its servers Wednesday.
Anticipating potential cyber-attacks because of its controversial work, WikiLeaks has long hosted its content on several different servers around the world. The number is unknown, but one of them is the Swedish host Bahnhof, which continues to carry WikiLeaks content today, the AP reported. It’s unclear how many others exist.
Amazon denied succumbing to U.S. pressure to evict WikiLeaks and said it decided to do so because the whistle-blower group violated its policies by publishing material it didn’t own or control the rights to.
“When companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere,” the company said.
Afterward, WikiLeaks wrote on Twitter that if the online bookseller was “so uncomfortable with the First Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution], they should get out of the business of selling books,” MSNBC reported.