Hackers bring down Mastercard site for cutting off WikiLeaks

Filed Under: Data loss, Denial of Service, Law & order, Malware, Privacy

Hackers, known as Operation Payback, have claimed to have brought down Mastercard's website www.mastercard.com, according to several news reports, including the Guardian and the National Post.

The timing makes the rather strong suggestion that this action was in response to Mastercard cutting off WikiLeaks' funding on Monday this week.

In fact, The Guardian wrote the following in its article:

The action was confirmed on Twitter at 9.39am by user @Anon_Operation, who later tweeted: "WE ARE GLAD TO TELL YOU THAT http://www.mastercard.com/ is DOWN AND IT'S CONFIRMED! #ddos #wikileaks Operation:Payback(is a bitch!) #PAYBACK"

Hackers reportedly used a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS), which is designed to flood web servers with so many requests it slows its service to a virtual stand-still - very much like a traffic jam on a major city artery.

The sad thing is that many innocent MasterCard users were probably affected, feeling the pain if they were trying to access the website. In addition, MasterCard has confirmed that its SecureCode service is also disrupted, which would be very serious as it could impact transaction processing.

Swiss bank Post Finance is reported to have also suffered a similar attack, and the hacker group claim to be eyeballing PayPal, promising they will be targeted soon. The group are linked in several reports to 4Chan, the popular internet messageboard.

As financial services run for the hills in an attempt to distance themselves from servicing WikiLeaks, we seem to be nearing unprecedented makings of a cyber war. On one side, you have the freedom of speech argument; on the other, the leaking of sensitive information putting third-parties at risk.

Adding fuel to the fire was WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange's arrest yesterday for alleged sex crimes committed in Sweden. UK Judge Howard Riddle denied Assange bail, and he now awaits his extradition trial next week on 14 December.

You better buckle in tightly as I think we can all agree that this is far from over.

As we await the next news headline, we'd love to hear your thoughts: if you had to point the finger at one party who is most to blame for this mess, who is it: WikiLeaks? Those named and shamed in the leaked documents? Financial services for cutting WikiLeaks off? The hackers? Founder Julian Assange?

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18 Responses to Hackers bring down Mastercard site for cutting off WikiLeaks

  1. JJ BB · 1765 days ago

    wikileaks are totally irresponsible. They have no regard for the risks they put others in by their desire for glory. I hope they get what they deserve along with the group hacking legit sites like Mastercard . They are no better than terrorists

  2. TTCC · 1765 days ago

    Nice troll JJBB...

  3. Jay Behr · 1765 days ago

    It's hardly irresponsible of wikileaks to publish the truth. Maybe you'd prefer to live in ignorance and lies?

  4. Wil · 1765 days ago

    So, Jay, if it's not irresponsible to "publish the truth" in public, then why not tell us you home address and telephone? Or are some truths just not meant for general consumption because they can bring useless attention and inconvenience while providing no useful information? "This building is important to us, don't bomb it" may be the truth, but it is just plain stupid to say that publishing that information in public is not irresponsible. And some questions, like "do these pants make me look fat?" should never be answered truthfully.

    • leeterbeeter · 1764 days ago

      Really silly comment Wil.

      It's like those who feel pissy about what's happening always turn a blind eye to the information released. I never hear your kind responding to the info that we now know. You'd just rather munch on the Government meal that your security is being jeopardized.

      And this information is not just information for information sake (though I'm not even opposed to that on the Government level {leave the private sector alone, however}) it's information that specific highlights illegal and inhumane acts by our government, and that can and should be released in any sector.

      People like you confuse me...

  5. JoJo · 1765 days ago

    I'm starting to suspect that the whole thing is just so they can test how impenetrable their systems are. For all we know Assange is a toy being used to incite hackers so they will react and give the banks and governments the opportunity to test their security systems. Not to protect us, but to protect them from us. To insure that in the future government and banking systems are locked down tight and are impenetrable. A way of stirring them up and identifying them as enemies now as opposed to later.

  6. CFL · 1764 days ago

    Mastercard cut off the cash flow to WikiLeaks based on their policy of not servicing anyone who conducts themselves in illegal manners. No charges have been laid yet against WikiLeaks, which means they have yet to do anything illegal. They had no right to pull the plug.

    Also, Mastercard still accepts donations on behalf of groups like The Knight's Party, who you have to sign an open declaration of being a white supremest to join.

    Hypocritical much? I call this just deserts.

    • Blah · 1764 days ago

      "They had no right to pull the plug. " They have a right to do whatever they want. They are a private business. Not being charged doesn't mean that you're not involved in illegal activities, it means that you haven't been charged. A government investigation is way more annoying then some pranksters that think that they are "paying you back" trying to overload your website with traffic for a few days. The government is investigating now, and that is why no one is interested in being involved with a organization that is obviously involved in illegal activity.

      Releasing Confidential documents is illegal whether you think that there should such things as confidential documents.

      What are these groups "like the Knights Party?" Are they involved in illegal activity? The last time I checked, being a white supremacist is not illegal in the U.S.

      • Nope. It's called contract, and violation of contract. Wikileaks didn't violate their contract. Mastercard did. Therefore, Mastercard is to blame here.

      • Bob · 1714 days ago

        many of the leaked documents show that the US government is engaging in illegal activity, so by your reasoning anyone involved with the US government should refuse to deal with them.

  7. greytoma · 1764 days ago

    Hey JJBB does your summing up also apply to the NYT and the Guardian and all the other mainstream news outlets. They're the ones actually disseminating the stuff. Rupert Murdoch, Terrorist....yeah I like that!

  8. Philip Le Riche · 1764 days ago

    Ultimately, the Americans are responsible for not looking after their own data. UK government security policy gets some stick whenever there's a breach, but it's very clear indeed on things like allowing removable media on systems holding highly classified information and limiting access to "need to know", particularly following the Hannigan Report. Like in the Gary McKinnon case, they need to turn their attention to whoever left the key in the front door.

    That said, Julian Assange is on the wrong planet if he thinks that government or international diplomacy can operate without the ability to express private views in private. But if the Americans use subterfuge and a trumped up Swedish case to spirit him off to an American jurisdiction, then they will prove themselves morally no better than he is. In short, no one comes out of this well. And we haven't got on to the hackers who DDoS'd Mastercard... Put on your tin hat and watch this space.

  9. technoweener · 1764 days ago

    Wow, conspiracy theories abound! As someone once told me, total security is no security.

    As long as there are walls to hide behind, folks on one side will operate under the premise that they are protected and covert. But, some folks on the other side will always want to see under/over/through that same wall. If human beings did not possess such a strong innate sense of wonder, we would still be dragging our knuckles : )

    This amazing collective consciousness we call the internet is bringing people together in ways we never imagined. The only way left to privately express one's view is to whisper it in someone's ear.

  10. some one · 1764 days ago

    This isn't entirely the correct place for this comment, but it's the most appropriate I can find.

    You gave a comment to the BBC regarding the tool used in these attacks, 'LOIC'.

    > "No-one should download unknown code on to their system," [Carole Theriault] said.
    > "You're giving access to your computer to a complete stranger."

    The thing is, this code is not unknown. It is distributed as an archive at github containing the C# source code to the program, which anyone is free to review and compile for themselves.

    Whilst it is true that access to your computer is being given to a stranger, they are limited to actions supported by the client program, and the user may terminate it at any time.

  11. PHall · 1764 days ago

    Did they expect anything different really? If there is a demand for wikileaks docs, there is an interest in the private revelations of high level capitalists and how they operate and to shut that demand off is a closed minded view of open minded thinking! It's all hypocritical on both sides.

    'We have no espionage or terrorist legal recourses, and so we'll pay off a foreign court and judge to keep him in jail on a trumped up 'rape' charge!' Denied bail for what a similar Joe Average has been charged with somewhere else and where bail was granted? Suspicious at best!

    Yes, he may be guilty of that charge, but if that's all they had, how underhanded is that? About as underhanded as wikileaks from their own personal viewpoint!

    Hey, Assange is a traitor, but the gov't officials perpetrating the actions in the revelations are hypocritical! Which is worse? But wait, they're the same thing!

    • Anonymous · 1764 days ago

      Assange is an obvious flight risk. He's been running around Europe while this warrant was out, which he was certainly aware of. Of course he was denied bail.

  12. Gaz · 1764 days ago

    To be fair, as pointed out in various news articles, Mastercard and Visa still process payments for the KKK - a convicted criminal organisation, while Wikileaks has not been convicted (and again, due to many articles) the American government have a previously set precedent regarding international journalists that will make it difficult to convict them.

    For a country with a constitution protecting the freedom of speech, they're definitely not living up to it with their levels of censorship and the lies they're spreading.

    People have the right to know the truth - Wikileaks didn't steal any information, they were given it. Nobody is going after the New York Times for publishing the same information, nobody is building up a case of lies (rape? seriously? hasn't this case been dropped twice?) to arrest the spokespeople of The Guardian. No, it's all lies and propaganda to prevent the spread of the truth by destroying the reputation of those who hold it.

    @PHall, Assange cannot be a traitor, he's not American. But I totally hear you on the faked allegations being held against him.

    I hope that Wikileak's payment processing side does sue Mastercard and Visa. I'm sure they'll win on the grounds that they're being treated in an unfair manner in comparison to the various other actual criminal organisations they still support.

    I agree that it's not right to fight fire with fire, but the governments of the world are all wrapped up in their self righteous bullshit and happily bend and break any law they wish to do what they want to do - Anonymous are only following the example set by the unelected scum of the world who lead us.

  13. Gaz · 1764 days ago

    To be fair, as pointed out in various news articles, Mastercard and Visa still process payments for the KKK - a convicted criminal organisation, while Wikileaks has not been convicted (and again, due to many articles) the American government have a previously set precedent regarding international journalists that will make it difficult to convict them.

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About the author

Hi. I am a social, brand and communications expert with 10 years in senior roles in the tech space. I'm currently Sophos' s Global Director of Social Media and Communities. Proudest work achievement? Creating and launching award-winning Naked Security. Outside work, I am a mean cook, an avid reader, a chronic insomniac, a podcast obsessive and blogger .