Denial of service attacks against Visa and Mastercard over the WikiLeaks affair may only be start, say internet leaders gathered in Paris.
LA PLAINE SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE (DECEMBER 9, 2010) REUTERS -Main actors of the internet world gathered at an annual conference in Paris on Thursday (December 9) amid talk that more cyber attacks in retaliation for attempts to block the WikiLeaks website were likely in a "data war" to protect online freedom.
The websites of credit card giants Mastercard and Visa have already been brought down through distributed denial-of-service attacks that temporarily disable computer servers by bombarding them with requests.
As leaders, entrepreneurs and bloggers were all meeting just outside Paris for the major internet event, supporters of WikiLeaks were plotting attacks on online payment service PayPal and other perceived enemies of the publisher, which has angered U.S. authorities by starting to release details of 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables.
But for co-founder of blogging platform Wordpress Matt Mullenweg, it's not surprising to see such attacks and activity around WikiLeaks.
"I think retaliatory hacking is usually kind of childish on both sides. The most important thing I see happening is that although, you know whatever the ethics and morality of the leak itself, who knows, but once the information is out there, information wants to be free. And the internet treats censorship as a bug and it rots around it," he told Reuters TV.
Mullenweg compared those attacks to a "nuclear weapon" available to all.
"Some of these denial-of-service attacks are so distributed so large there is almost nothing you can do. So you are in a situation where, like the equivalent, the online equivalent of a nuclear weapon, accessible to almost everyone and we haven't quite figured that out yet," Mullenweg added.
The attacks, despite having a financial impact on the targeted companies, have at least attracted attention.
"Typically this is, for the hackers, they want to show, they want to prove their point and I think they have already proven their point, basically judging by the large media attention that they have," said Jan Rezab, from the Candytech online company.
Sweden has issued an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over sex crimes and he is in jail in London, awaiting an extradition hearing.
Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has been hailed as an advocate of free speech by supporters, but now finds himself fighting serious sexual allegations made by two women in Sweden.
Assange will have another court appearance next Tuesday and his supporters assert he is being victimised for his work.
In the Internet Relay chat channel where activists coordinated the attacks, conversations were short and to the point.
Participants asked what the target should be and reported progress. Some bemoaned the fact that paypal.com remained up despite efforts to bring down its transactions server.
In a statement on Thursday, Mastercard said although there was a limited interruption of some online services, cardholders could continue using cards for transactions worldwide.
Its main processing systems were not compromised, the statement said.