In response to the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, hundreds of Internet activists supportive of Assange but not affiliated with WikiLeaks launched retaliatory attacks on the Web sites of companies like Amazon.com and MasterCard. The targets of the attacks had stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks, or in the case of Amazon.com, revoked the use of its computer servers.
The attacks occurred within 12 hours of a British judge’s decision on Tuesday to deny Assange bail. During the hearing Assange refused to provide a home address or other personal details giving the judge very little option but to deem Assange a flight risk.
The fact that the attacks came from individuals sympathetic to Assange but not affiliated with him raises an interesting new problem for those trying to contain WikiLeaks. These supporters are self-described “cyberanarchists,” antigovernment and anticorporate activists who have made Assange a hero. According to reports a group called Anonymous coordinated the attack.
In the past Anonymous singled out other groups for their efforts such as the Church of Scientology. They claimed responsibility for the MasterCard attack in their Twitter stream, announcing the actions were part of a specific campaign called Operation Payback. Operation Payback originally began as a means of punishing companies that attempted to stop Internet file-sharing and media downloads.
It is obvious from the messaging that Anonymous and other Assange supporters see this as a war and they view Assange as a political prisoner. What that means for future information dumps or the ability of WikiLeaks to conduct its activities remains to be seen. The groups targeted for attack were fully operational by late in the day on Wednesday, calling into question the overall effectiveness of the efforts. The attacks definitely drew attention to Assange’s supporters, but what else they accomplished is unclear.
The supporters promise more attacks just like WikiLeaks promises to release more documents making this a true David and Goliath story for the Internet age.
photo courtesy of espenmoe via Flickr