Wiki supporters claim attack on Visa, Mastercard

Posted 10 Dec 2010

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Hackers claimed Wednesday to have attacked the websites of Mastercard, Visa, and a Swiss bank in revenge for their decisions to choke off funding for whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

Organisers of the group “Anonymous” said thousands of hackers had joined their effort to defend the site and its founder Julian Assange, and vowed to extend their campaign to anyone with an “anti-WikiLeaks agenda.”

WikiLeaks said it had nothing to do with the hacking.

As Mr. Assange spent his first full day in a London prison after he was refused bail on Tuesday, it emerged that one of Britain’s highest-profile lawyers will fight moves to extradite him to Sweden to face rape accusations.

Mr. Assange’s 20-year-old son, meanwhile, said he hoped his father’s arrest in Britain was not a “step towards his extradition to the U.S.”

WikiLeaks has enraged governments around the world by releasing a wave of U.S. diplomatic cables, detailing everything from China’s view of North Korea to unflattering descriptions of world leaders.

After WikiLeaks appealed for donations to be able to continue its activities, Mastercard and Visa said they were suspending payments to the site, sparking attempts to hack into the payment services.

The www.mastercard.comwebsite was down for much of Wednesday, and the group said they had also attacked the Swiss post office banking service, PostFinance. Then Visa.comwent down instantaneously at 4:00 p.m. as members of “Anonymous” launched a coordinated cyber attack announced on their Twitter feed Anon–Operation.

“Operation Payback. TARGET: WWW.VISA.COM::FIRE FIRE FIRE!!! WEAPONS,” the message said.

In an online chat with AFP, organisers of “Anonymous” said some 4,000 hackers had thrown their weight behind the group’s efforts in response to online appeals.

Anyone, “that has an anti-Wikileaks agenda is within our scope of attack,” they said.

“We recruit through the Internet, that means, everywhere: imageboards, forums, Facebook, Twitter… you name it, we’re using it,” they said, adding that members were drawn from “all over the world.”

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told AFP the hackers were “not associated” with his organisation.

In another twist to the cyber war, Icelandic firm DataCell said it would sue Visa for blocking payments to WikiLeaks and accused the credit card giant of bowing to political pressure.

Geoffrey Robertson, a barrister who has established a reputation for arguing for victims of human rights abuses, will defend Mr. Assange in his attempts to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of rape and molestation.

After laying low for weeks, Mr. Assange emerged on Tuesday and handed himself in to police in London, appearing before a judge who denied him bail. He was ordered to return to court on December 14.

Mr. Assange’s supporters insist the extradition request is politically motivated, a claim refuted by the lawyer for the two Swedish women behind the rape claims.

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