Hackers stepped up their cyber war yesterday in support of WikiLeaks, after a group that has dubbed itself “Anonymous” vowed to intensify its “war of data” against MasterCard, Visa and other groups that have cut funding to the Web site. The Swedish government has also come under attack.
In an online chat with Agence France-Presse, organizers of the group said thousands of volunteers were taking part in their defense of WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, whom they described as a “free-speech martyr.”
“We started off with a small amount of users [below 50],” they said. “Now, we are at around 4,000 ... We recruit through the Internet, that means, everywhere: imageboards, forums, Facebook, Twitter ... you name it, we’re using it,” they said.
A spokesman calling himself “Coldblood” also talked to BBC Radio 4 in the UK.
“Anonymous has targeted mainly companies which have decided for whatever reason not to deal with WikiLeaks. Some of the main targets involve Amazon, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal,” Coldblood said.
The speaker, who had an English accent, said he was aged 22 and was a software engineer.
Members of Anonymous launched their first distributed denial of service attack on Saturday, taking down PayPal’s blog, ThePayPalBlog.com, for at least eight hours. Since then, they have taken down the Web sites of Visa, MasterCard and the Swiss Post Office bank for severing ties to WikiLeaks and the Web site of the Swedish prosecutor’s office for pursuing Assange on allegations of sex crimes.
The latest apparent victim was the Swedish government, according to a report in the country’s top-selling daily, Aftonbladet.
The newspaper said the official government Web site was offline for a few hours overnight on Wednesday. The site was working normally later yesterday.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks’ payment processor said yesterday that it was preparing to sue Visa and MasterCard over their refusal to process donations to the Web site.
Andreas Fink, the chief executive of Iceland’s DataCell ehf, said he would seek damages from the US companies over their decision to block WikiLeaks funds.