Hackers launch cyber attacks after WikiLeaks' funding cut

8th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Hackers claimed Wednesday to have attacked the websites of Mastercard and a Swiss bank in revenge for their decisions to choke off funding for whistleblowing 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 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.

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 US."

WikiLeaks has enraged governments around the world by releasing a wave of US 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.

"Anonymous" said their latest target was www.mastercard.com, and said they had also attacked the Swiss post office banking service, PostFinance.

Mastercard refused to comment, while the Swiss bank confirmed its website was suffering "denial of service attacks" since it closed Assange's account.

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.

"The current target is Mastercard.com, but 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.

"We are not associated with them and this is a decision that they are taking. It is part of a consumers' response, I gather," he said.

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 Assange in his attempts to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of rape and molestation.

After laying low for weeks, Assange emerged on Tuesday and handed himself in to police in London, appearing before a judge who denied him bail despite offers by celebrities, including film director Ken Loach, to put up surety.

He was ordered to return to court on December 14.

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.

"There is absolutely no link between what those two women have been through and WikiLeaks, the CIA, or the American administration," Claes Borgstroem told reporters in Stockholm.

Assange's son Daniel, a software developer in the Australian city of Melbourne who has not been in contact with his father for a number of years, called for him to be treated "fairly and apolitically" following his arrest.

As WikiLeaks promised, it continued to release cables overnight Tuesday despite Assange's arrest.

One revealed Washington had branded Australia's ex-premier Kevin Rudd as a "mistake-prone control freak".

That prompted Rudd -- now Australian foreign minister -- to blame the United States for the leak of secret cables, pointing to a "core problem" with its diplomatic security.

Dispatches from the US embassy in Libya showed Britain faced threats from Libya of "dire consequences" if Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi -- who is suffering from cancer -- had died in a Scottish prison. He was released last year.

A cable published by El Pais newspaper revealed that the Madrid government had offered to host the US military command for Africa (Africom) in southern Spain, near the port of Cadiz.

© 2010 AFP

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