Hackers Take Down Mastercard in Revenge for Blocking WikiLeaks

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Photo: Jed Egan, iStockPhoto

Internet natives are not at all pleased with the corporate willingness to kowtow to political interests and abandon WikiLeaks. In retaliation for Mastercard's blocking donations to WikiLeaks, hackers took down the credit-card company's corporate website in the U.S. and the U.K. earlier this morning, and it has yet to get back online. Operation Payback, a group backed by the Internet vigilantes at Anonymous, are taking credit for the attack, and it looks like hackers at 4chan are also involved. On its Twitter account, Operation Payback describes itself as an ongoing campaign "against major anti-piracy & anti-freedom entities." After the attack, a Twitter account called AnonyWatcher quipped, "There are some things Wikileaks can't do. For everything else, there's Operation Payback."

Earlier this morning, the first words on Mastercard's Wikipedia page were:

MasterCard is an evil puppet of the US government, bowing to demand to cease handling WikiLeaks payments due to some vague reference to illegal activity. They are scumbags and should be called up on their actions!

Other companies and websites that have frozen funds to WikiLeaks, like PayPal and Swiss bank PostFinance, have been under attack, and Visa, Amazon, and EveryDNS.net are suspected targets for the next round. After claiming that PayPal's decision was influenced by a letter from the State Department deeming WikiLeaks illegal, Osama Bedier, a PayPal vice-president, clarified that the letter was sent to WikiLeaks, not PayPal.

The irony of shutting down one website for its role in shutting down another is not lost on cyberlibertarian political activist John Perry Barlow, who tweeted, "Sorry, but I don't support DDoSing Mastercard.com. You can't defend The Right to Know by shutting someone up."
But with Julian Assange's next court date for sex-crimes charges set for December 14, WikiLeaks corporate defectors should be on guard.

But it doesn't stop there. The file-sharing community (known in less polite circles as pirates) are seeking to build, wait for it ... their own Internet. To prevent takedowns based on political and business interests in the future, anti-copyright activist Peter Sunde, founder of Sweden's Pirate Bay, a BitTorrent aggregator of sorts that's faced its own share of legal woes, has suggested starting a competing root-server to rival Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.


The file-sharers believe that ICANN, which controls the internet's domain name system (DNS), takes down web domains at the whim of politicians and industry bosses, if they are considered to infringe the law. The DNS is effectively a phone book for the net, a look-up table which converts a website's URL into a machine-readable IP address that locates the relevant server and brings users their requested page. The DNS comprises 13 large registry computers, called root servers, dotted around the world. Each holds an identical copy of the internet's master look-up table. If a domain is deemed illegal, ICANN can render it useless by simply steering traffic away from it.

Wait, but if hackers get their own Internet, then who are they going to hack?

4Chan Takes Down Mastercard Site In Support Of WikiLeaks [TechCrunch]
Mastercard sites down, Anonymous claims responsibility [ZDNet UK]
Info pirates seek an alternative internet [NewScientist]