Assange detention sparks total cyberwar

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Assange detention sparks total cyberwar
Julian Assange, publisher WIkileaks.

Botnets target each other in escalating DDoS conflict.

Follow the unfolding cyberwar live at SC Magazine's blog WikiWars: blow by blow

Update December 8, 2323: Anonymous has taken down Mastercard's global website and hackers have targeted the computer networks of the lawyers representing two women who initiated Swedish police action against Assange.

The group leading the denial-of-service attacks on those who arrayed themselves against detained Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange has itself come under fire from US "patriots", a Spanish information security researcher said.

Assange's detention this morning in London on Swedish allegations of sexual molestation unleashed total cyberwar between factions opposed to and supporting his release of confidential and classified diplomatic despatches in what has come to be known as "Cablegate".

Almost every organisation that lined up against Assange, Wikileaks and its supporters has fallen under heavy, coordinated distributed denial-of-service attacks as have those who launched them, Panda Labs researchers reported.

And while the botnets targeted each other, Wikileaks mirrors were spreading like a virus across the internet, making it now seem impossible that governments could contain the "Cablegate" leaks. And even the hacker th3j35t3r ("the Jester") who first took out Wikileaks main site last week, has since fallen quiet.

Both the Swedish prosecutor's office that raised the Interpol Red Notice for Assange's apprehension and the shadowy collective called Anonymous that was allegedly gumming up the police website were offline this afternoon.

US Senator and chairman of the Homeland Security committee Joseph Lieberman, who has led a campaign against Assange and claimed responsibility for Amazon Web Services among others choking off the Wikileaks site, was also taken down for a minute although the US Government site was back online at the time of writing.

Panda Labs said the counterattacks on Anonymous "intensified shortly after [Anonymous] announcing the attack on Senator Lieberman's website" and it levelled the blame at US "patriots" rather than a coordinated government response.

The assaults on Wikileaks opponents gained steam at the weekend as the blog for online transaction provider PayPal was knocked off the air for eight hours. PayPal was one of the first financial services providers to refuse to process funds destined for the Wikileaks account.

And the blog was the voice through which the eBay division made its case for terminating Wikileaks: "PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by Wikileaks due to a violation of the PayPal acceptable use policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We've notified the account holder of this action."

Anonymous attacked the main PayPal US site yesterday as part of its Operation Payback (later, "Avenge Assange") but it was back online soon after the counterstrike began, Panda Labs reported.

A digital poster circulated the internet warning attack was imminent:  "We will fire at anyone or anything that tries to censor Wikileaks, including multi-billion-dollar companies such as PayPal". Ominously, it threatened to take out Twitter for allegedly "censoring" discussion about Wikileaks.

Twitter has been accused of refusing to "trend" the main hashtags - identifiers of a particular discussion - #wikileaks, #cablegate, #assange although the popular social media service has denied this. A trending topic is how Twitter users often choose which stories to follow.

Other attacks denying service were aimed at Swiss bank postfinance.ch that, like PayPal, refused to process donations to Wikileaks although  the websites of Mastercard and Visa, which also refused service to the whistleblowers' site, were functioning.

Even Wikileaks' erstwhile domain name service provider EveryDNS.net fell prey to hackers early this morning although was back up this afternoon with an explanation for why it yanked Wikileaks service and a curious libertarian reference.

"First, let's be clear, this is a difficult issue to deal with and there are opinions on all sides," the site said.

"EveryDNS.net is not taking a position on the content hosted on the wikileaks.org or wikileaks.ch website, it is following established policies so as not to put any one EveryDNS.net user's interests ahead of any others.

"Lastly, regardless of what people say about the actions of EveryDNS.net, we know this much is true - we believe in our New Hampshire state motto, Live Free or Die."

The rolling update on the Wikileaks cyberwar is being blogged at Panda Labs.

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