The largest coordinated internet attack in history happened this morning.
It seems only prudent to review some of the events of the day.
It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over.
In what is being called the WikiLeaks cyberwar, this morning hackers were able bring down Swedish government site. Anonymous hackers who claim they are defending WikiLeaks brought down the Swedish government's website. The Sweden government site, regeringen.se, was offline for several hours overnight and only a message saying the site could not be reached was visible.
Commercial websites including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal have already been targeted by co-ordinated action on one of the busiest shopping days preceding Christmas. This was a day after the firms said that they would no longer process donations to WikiLeaks. The cyberwar that is online buzz this morning is not limited to these attacks, and the Swedish government site is just one of intended targets.
The attack in Sweden is following the Swedish government having issued an international warrant over alleged sex offenses against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder .
Visa was thought to be unaffected by the cyber attacks. But this is in opposition to reports from other news agencies this morning.
MasterCard said the firm had seen disruptions of service but insisted it had not been affected by "a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic".
PayPal said: "The attack slowed some payments down for a short while but we remained fully operational throughout."
The hacker / activists group gave warnings they will attack again.
A group calling itself Anonymous and operating under the banner "Operation Payback" was behind some of the attacks and there were concerns that Twitter could become a target because it removed Anonymous' listing.
A 22-year-old software engineer who called himself Coldblood said: "The campaign is not over, it's still going strong. More and more people are joining. I see this as becoming a war - but not a traditional war: this is a war of data. We are trying to keep the Internet free for everyone."
The actions so far have been essentially attacks by volume hits to take down a site by force. This type of cyber attack is known as DDoS or distributed denial of service, in which the target site is hit with massively increased numbers of visitors with the intention of exceeding its capabilities and forcing it to crash.
The attack this morning involved hundreds of volunteers having downloaded a botnet, which aids the distribution of the command to attack the site. The volunteers wait for a signal on an Internet chatroom, before launching the massed attack. These kind of cyber attacks are illegal in Britain and carry a maximum sentence of two years.
Carole Theriault, a senior security consultant at Sophos, said this morning, "If the big companies weren't locking down their information before, they're definitely doing it now. This is really unprecedented and Amazon could be next. Hacking is illegal and it's not just the companies which are the victims of this, it's also the people who are trying to use their services to shop and the sellers of those items who can't sell them. "
The group of "hacktivists" posted a blog setting out its aims as campaigning for free speech.
"Hello World. We are Anonymous. What you do or do not know about us is irrelevant. We have decided to write to you, the media, and all citizens of the free world at large to inform you of the message, our intentions, potential targets, and our ongoing peaceful campaign for freedom.
"The message is simple: freedom of speech. Anonymous is peacefully campaigning for freedom of speech everywhere in all forms. Freedom of speech for: the Internet, for journalism and journalists, and citizens of the world at large. Regardless of what you think or have to say; Anonymous is campaigning for you."
WikiLeaks Europe declared it was at "cyberwar" on Twitter.
The cyberwar on the Swedish government website and major companies involved with the investigation of WikiLeaks is unparalleled in its successful use of web tactical hacking. In the coming days this will likely be the subject of great discussion world wide. Perhaps cyberwar is officially upon us.
WikiLeaks cyberwar attacks on websites for Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal disrupts Christmas shopping in what they deemed Operation Payback. Web anarchists who attacked three corporate websites have now taken down the Visa site at earliest reports. . The websites of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal were all targeted by co-ordinated attacks, a literal cyberwar coordinated on one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Anonymous hackers launched what is thought to be an unprecedented revenge attack on the websites of companies which are accused of bowing to federal government pressure on the WikiLeaks website investigation. The group of hacker activists calling themselves Anonymous launched what they called "Operation Payback" . This attack being coordinated against the firms that had began refusing to process payments to WikiLeaks last week.
The events unfolded something like this.
A group using the Twitter handle @AnonOperation - which was linked to the WikLeaks site was reported to have tweeted: "Operation #Payback SITREP: http://www.visa.com/ is currently DOWN. FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!!" The post was retweeted multiple times, adding to the sense that the attacks were co-ordinated, and WikiLeaks Europe declared it was officially at cyberwar on Twitter.
Another tweet mocked MasterCard's advertising slogan with the comment: "There are some things WikiLeaks can't do. For everything else, there's Operation Payback."
Activists urged supporters to get their weapons ready, encouraging public response in the form of downloading software from a link posted on Twitter. Anyone is support was then prompted to "FIRE FIRE FIRE!!!" at the pre-set agreed time.
Minutes later Visa.com went down.
Visa said its website was currently experiencing heavier than normal traffic officially.
AnonOps, is the investigative name being used for the attack group this morning. The group had given an hour's notice that it would take down the Visa website as part of Operation Payback, a campaign against companies that have withdrawn services from the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks.
Twitter later suspended the AnonOps account.
Earlier attacks by AnonOps on MasterCard and PayPal were partially successful, affecting MasterCard's European operations. MasterCard would neither confirm nor deny the attack but he knew it had taken place.
Sam Kiley, Sky News' security editor, said: "This organization is very aggressive. It's a counter attack to the suspension of WikiLeaks' services by the financial sector that supports them. They have attacked them to try and freeze them out of their business. "PayPal were knocked back, but not knocked out."
The attacks came just a day after the same group of anarchists shut down Swiss bank PostFinance. Also after the financial giants announced that they would no longer process donations to the anti-secrecy group. PostFinance had frozen money belonging to Assange, the bank website was down for more than 16 hours.
It seems the cyberwar maybe upon us.
A spokesman for the hackers Anonymous, calling himself "Coldblood" told the London Dail Mail this regarding the attacks: "Websites that are bowing to government pressure have become targets. As an organization we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the Internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means. We feel that WikiLeaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people versus the government. The idea is not to wipe them off but to give the companies a wake-up call."
Websites can crash if enough people attempt to use it at once and hackers can facilitate this by infiltrating other people's computers and directing them to the target site, using them as slave units without ever seeing - or perhaps even knowing the physical location of - the machine in question. The WikiLeaks cyberwar attacks on the Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal sites are just a small example of what groups are capable of in the modern technological era.
WikiLeaks funds released by PayPal have caused some tough inquiries from the providers under investigation by the federal government. PayPal has released all the remaining funds in the account associated with WikiLeaks today, after restricting access to the account last week. The release of funds follows a number of denials of service and other strategic attacks earlier this week that were aimed at the WikiLeaks providers.
PayPal was caught up in a brief media storm this morning concerning the position they took with WikiLeaks transactions. The WikiLeaks funds released by PayPal are in compliance with policies and federal laws.
PayPal now wants to set the record straight, and says that it reviewed its policies regarding WikiLeaks after the U.S. Department of State publicized a letter stating that WikiLeaks may be in possession of documents in violation of U.S. law.
"PayPal was not contacted by any government organization in the U.S. or abroad. We restricted the account based on our Acceptable Use Policy review. Ultimately, our difficult decision was based on a belief that the WikiLeaks website was encouraging sources to release classified material, which is likely a violation of law by the source." writes PayPal's General Counsel John Muller.
PayPal is releasing the residual funds to WikiLeaks, but is not reinstating the ability for it to receive donations.
WikiLeak's founder Julian Assange was arrested and denied bail yesterday in London, UK. The charges he is being held on do not have to do with the WikiLeaks scandal. They have to do with unrelated charges of sexual misconduct in Sweden.
PayPal has been one of many providers that have been the victim of computer attacks, where servers were inundated with traffic including MasterCard and Swiss bank PostFinance. No further WikiLeaks funds are determined to be released by PayPal as per the federal investigations.
" His login is Panic. His passwrod is Crash.
When Time is of Essence. He'll rise from the ash. "
- Son of Gomez aka C.J. Parker