MasterCard is the latest addition to a list of organizations having their Websites targeted in retaliation for taking action against WikiLeaks.
Attackers hit the Website for MasterCard in an apparent cyber-retaliation
for the company's decision to stop processing donations to WikiLeaks.
MasterCard joined a growing list of companies targeted by
hacktivists associated with Anonymous, a loosely affiliated group tied
to the 4chan message board. The attack was confirmed in a tweet this
morning by user @Anon_Operation: "WE ARE GLAD TO TELL YOU THAT
http://www.mastercard.com/ is DOWN AND IT'S CONFIRMED! #ddos #wikileaks
Operation:Payback(is a b***h!) #PAYBACK."
MasterCard has said it decided to cancel its business with WikiLeaks
because the company's rules prohibit customers from directly or
indirectly engaging in or facilitating criminal behavior. The credit
card company has become the latest in a string of companies and
institutions being targeted in retaliation for recent actions against
On Dec. 7, attackers struck back at the Swedish prosecutor by launching a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on www.aklagare.se
, making it impossible to access the site until recently. Swedish authorities pushed for the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
, who was taken into custody in the U.K. earlier this week on sexual assault charges.
In a statement, the prosecutor's office confirmed the
DoS attack and said the incident has been reported to police. In
addition, the office warned the Website may continue to be unstable due
to future attempts to overload it.
Preceding the assault on the prosecutor's site, defenders of WikiLeaks went after PayPal
retaliation for the company blocking WikiLeaks' donation account. The
PayPal blog was knocked offline for more than eight hours Dec. 4. A
second attack targeted the main PayPal site Dec. 6.
Also targeted was the Website for PostFinance, a financial
institution in Switzerland, that froze Assange's account, claiming
he had lied about his residency. That site is now back online.
WikiLeaks has been victim to DoS attacks itself recently
and decisions by Amazon and EveryDNS.net to cut service have forced
site operators to adjust. The site is now mirrored on more than 1,000
sites, according to information from WikiLeaks
"Attacking a Website because you disagree with its politics or
business decisions is a criminal activity," opined Chet Wisniewski,
senior security adviser at Sophos. "While those who are participating
in these attacks are lashing out against practices they feel are
unjust, this does not make it legal. People who feel strongly about the
right to publish information that exposes the government's secrets
would be better spending their time, effort and resources to provide a
safe, reliable home for the WikiLeaks data. Resorting to
(distributed-denial-of-service attacks) and use of malware diminishes
their political goals and harms the larger innocent public without any
Paul Mutton of Netcraft blogged that as more companies cut ties with
WikiLeaks, he would not be surprised to see additional attacks.
"Concurrent attacks against the online payment services of
MasterCard, Visa and PayPal would have a significant impact on online
retailers, particularly in the run-up to Christmas," he noted.
"Although (DoS attacks) are illegal in most countries, Operation
Payback clearly has a sufficient supply of volunteers who are willing
to take an active role in the attacks we have seen so far."