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Tech Herald, "Cablegate: Operation Avenge Assange Begins"

Cablegate: Operation Avenge Assange BeginsTech Herald

Anonymous responded to Assange's arrest by taking down Swedish government site www.aklagare.se, the hive at 13:15 EST has hit more than 600 users. This is more than enough to cripple a given domain, considering that aklagare.se has minimal infrastructure support. There are calls in the IRC channel to target MasterCard, Visa, as well as PayPal. However, most of those in the room who are active in the attacks are sticking with a single target.

Julian Assange deifies everything Anonymous holds dear. And, whether or not he wants its help, the collective hive has joined the pro-WikiLeaks anti-censorship movement. The first target to fall into the crosshairs of Anonymous was the PayPal blog, but it has since moved on, targeting PostFinance.ch, and there are plans for more targets.

It started shortly after PayPal issued a statement that it had permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks to collect donations. Anonymous took offence to PayPal’s actions, including the fact that all of the money collected by the account holder (the Wau Holland Foundation) on behalf of WikiLeaks was confiscated.

Anonymous shifted from 'Operation Payback', where it had been attacking various copyright enforcement agencies, including the RIAA and MPAA, to 'Operation Avenge Assange'. The result of this shift caused 75 service interruptions, and more than eight hours of downtime for PayPal’s blog. By Monday, things had returned to normal on PayPal’s end, but Anonymous was already hitting out at its second target.

In a statement, Post Finance, the Swiss bank holding finance for Julian Assange’s defense fund, reported that it had frozen the account. At the time, it was reported that it held nearly 31,000 EUR. The bank used a technicality to seize the account, reporting to the media that “it was revealed that Assange provided false information regarding his place of residence.”

Assange has used his lawyer's address in Geneva on bank records. As such, the bank noted that it was closing the account because “Assange cannot provide proof of residence in Switzerland and thus does not meet the criteria for a customer relationship with PostFinance.”

Anonymous acted once the announcement by PostFinance made the wires, launching attacks at IP addresses used by the bank with the aim of hindering the completion of financial transactions. At time of publication, PostFinance.ch has been offline for more than 12 hours.

“This DDoS is one of the first successful attacks on a financial institution and is getting in the way of customers doing business with the company,” commented Sean-Paul Correll, a Panda Security researcher who has been monitoring the Anonymous attacks for several months.

While we don’t have much of an affiliation with WikiLeaks, we fight for the same: we want transparency (in our case in copyright) and we counter censorship. The attempts to silence WikiLeaks are long strides closer to a world where we can not say what we think and not express how we feel,” Anonymous said in a statement.

“We can not let this happen, that is why we will find out who is attacking WikiLeaks and with that find out who tries to control our world. What we are going to do when we found them? Except for the usual DDoSing, word will be spread that whoever tries to silence or discourage WikiLeaks, favors world domination rather than freedom and democracy."

While Anonymous is being touted as anti-government, the fact is that Anonymous is simply anti-anti-WikiLeaks, according to a Twitter post by an Anon. Then again, as anyone who has accurately covered the hive mentality of Anonymous knows, it can be for and against something at the same time. There is no single point to Anonymous, it just is.

Yet, if the hive takes an interest in a particular cause, it has the ability to cause damage. Anonymous has also been known to be a cause for good, such as locating animal abusers or exposing shifty law firms.

On IRC, where some have gathered to organize the attacks, the hive mentality and general chaos that is Anonymous is evident. There is no structure. There is no command. Just people, using whatever means are available to them, “to ensure punishment does not go un-served to those who deserve it... We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”