Censorship Charges Denied

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2010-12-12 Print this article Print


As the lawyers work out how to prosecute Assange, some government officials are denying charges of censorship or pressuring companies to sever ties with Assange's operation.

"We have not pressured anybody to do anything," Holder said at a news conference in San Francisco when asked if the government had tried to influence companies.

Shortly after a statement by PayPal's vice president of platform, Osama Bedier, that the "State Department told us these were illegal activities," at Paris' LeWeb conference, both PayPal's general counsel and the State Department denied the conversation ever took place. Bedier was referencing a letter sent by the State Department to WikiLeaks, not PayPal, according to TechCrunch.

As for WikiLeaks supporters, there are some lessons learned there as well. An Internet gathering, commonly referred to as "Anonymous," has launched a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks against WikiLeaks enemies, such as PayPal, PostFinance, Visa, MasterCard and the Swedish Prosecution Authority. Called Operation Payback, Anonymous posted target sites and instructions on how to participate in the DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks on Twitter. Unlike usual botnets controlling computers belonging to innocent users, there are "no victimized machines" in Operation Payback as "the participants knowingly engage" in the DDOS attack, said Noa Bar Yossef, a senior security strategist at Imperva.

While the group trumpeted victories about knocking PayPal, Visa and MasterCard offline, the fact remains that they were "brochure sites," said Jason Hoffman, co-founder and chief scientist at public cloud provider Joyent. The DDOS attacks didn't disrupt actual payment services but the corporate sites, he said. A "vigilante DDOS attack" of several hundreds of machines can't do a lot of damage to core services - a "botnet of millions of machines" would be needed, he said.

Even Anonymous appeared to understand its limitations, posting, "We can not attack Amazon, currently. The previous schedule was to do so, but we don't have enough forces," on Twitter.

Within the Anonymous IRC chat rooms, there was a lot of discussion about whom to target next, but also about halting DOS attacks and focusing on publicizing the contents of the leaked cables. Some participants in the chat rooms seemed aware they were losing the propaganda war and were being painted as criminals out to steal credit card information.

In a press release, Anonymous said, "Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks," and called itself "Internet Citizens" who are "fed up with minor and major injustices."


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