Operation Payback picks up speed, WikiLeaks denies involvement

The WikiLeaks saga continues. As Julian Assange spends his time in the segregation unit of Wandsworth prison, hoping that his lawyers will be able to reverse the court’s decision about denying bail and to prevent his extradition to Sweden, people around the world are clamoring for his release.

Some are saying that the Australian government should do more to protect its citizen, others that he should be awarded the Nobel peace prize.

Both Assange and WikiLeaks have, in the meantime, distanced themselves from the “Operation Payback” executed by the Anonymous hacktivist group. Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange’s lawyers says that he is “very concerned that he is unable to respond to the various malicious allegations that have been made against him … [allegations] that he somehow instructed hackers around the world to attack Mastercard and Visa for refusing WikiLeaks service”.

“It is absolutely false. He did not make any such instruction, and indeed he sees that as a deliberate attempt to conflate hacking organizations [with] WikiLeaks, which is not a hacking organization. It is a news organization and a publisher,” she says.

But, Anonymous trudges on. In spite having lost its Twitter account and having their page banned by Facebook because they linked to a file containing (fake?) credit card numbers and expiry dates, and having their website offline because it no longer has a DNS provider, they continue performing DDoS attacks on Mastercard, Visa, PayPal (who has released the funds contained in the account associated with WikiLeaks), threatening to attack British Government servers – and even seemingly adding a new dimension to their pro-WikiLeaks action.

They even targeted Amazon, but must have concluded that it’s too big a target and stopped after a very short time. Imperva’s Hacker Intelligence Initiative has been closely tracking Anonymous and its attacks against various Web sites, and have found that the tool to initiate a denial of service attack has been downloaded over 40,000 times (with the majority of downloads occurring in the US), so maybe things will change.

“My speculation is that due to the substantial increase in downloads, it is highly likely this is no longer just a social movement, but also a technical movement like a botnet,” says Amichai Schulman, Imperva’ CTO.

“With the rate of machines engaging in this activity, we are speculating that the hacktivists are now operating using involuntary botnets – infecting unaware victims to involve them in this campaign.” According to him, Anonymous is in the process of coordinating botnets with over 100,000 computers capable of generating 800MGBPS traffic to increase the attack horsepower, and an attack of that magnitude is likely to better test Amazon’s ability to deal with DDoS attacks.

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