Operation Payback Floods MasterCard for WikiLeaks Shutout
MasterCard's web site was the target Tuesday of denial-of-service attacks from a group that vowed revenge for the company's suspension of its credit-card service on WikiLeaks. According to news reports, the attacks were orchestrated by an "Internet vigilante group" called Anonymous and hackers connected with 4Chan, a message-board network.
Someone allegedly allied with Anonymous tweeted that the action was called Operation Payback. The attacks flooded the MasterCard site with "traffic and slow access," according to spokesperson James Issokson. MasterCard has said there had been no request from the U.S. government or any other source before its decision was made.
Online attacks by Anonymous have, in the past, been reported against the Church of Scientology and the music industry.
MSNBC reported Wednesday that the MasterCard site was down Wednesday morning, although it was live in the afternoon. MasterCard has acknowledged it experienced a "service disruption" of its system for verifying online payments, but has said its service remains operational.
On Monday, MasterCard announced it was discontinuing the acceptance of MasterCard-branded products on the WikiLeaks site. The action stems from WikiLeaks' unauthorized publishing of a quarter-million U.S. Embassy diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks' head, Julian Assange, was arrested Tuesday in the United Kingdom, following an international arrest warrant on rape charges. He has denied the charges.
On Tuesday, Visa Europe Ltd. in London also said WikiLeaks would not be able to use its services. eBay has similarly discontinued WikiLeaks' account because of what it described as a violation of its acceptable-use policy, and Amazon.com has shut down the site's use of its hosting service.
As of Wednesday, WikiLeaks was live through the early afternoon, and it still showed a MasterCard logo on its donations page, as well as one for Visa. It also offered other ways for visitors to donate, including transfers to banks in Germany and Iceland, or "old-fashioned postal mail."
By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the WikiLeaks site was down. The site has also faced denial-of-service attacks since the documents were released.
'Immediate Legal Actions'
The MasterCard action isn't the first attempt to dry up the nonprofit's financial resources. Swiss authorities have closed a PostFinance bank account maintained by Assange, and the site's account with PayPal has also been closed by that service.
DataCell, a company with offices in Iceland and Sweden, handles payments for WikiLeaks, and its CEO, Andreas Fink, issued a statement Wednesday about the suspension of Visa and MasterCard payments. He said Visa's suspension was for one week, although the suspension could be extended. A spokesperson for Visa Europe said an investigation was under way about whether WikiLeaks violates Visa's operating rules.
Since Tuesday, Fink wrote, Visa and MasterCard payments "are being rejected on our donation system." He said DataCell will take "immediate legal actions to make donations possible again," adding that the suspension by Visa, in particular, "is a violation of the agreements" the credit-card company has with its customers.