Wikileaks supporters were successful in temporarily damaging some of the world's largest financial institutions with web attacks, after they blocked donations to Wikileaks.  (Source: Myce)

While site founder Julian Assange and his small team of full-time volunteers have not been directly linked to the attacks, many of them, including Assange, have long histories in the world of cybercrime.  (Source: Boing Boing)
Site's allies down MasterCard, Swiss bank's sites, say it's payback for them blocking donations to the site

Add computer fraud to the list of crimes that Wikileaks' supporters are being investigated for. 

The move marks the site's supporters further distancing themselves from legality, as its followers have claimed responsibility for and appeared to be directing a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack that targeted multiple financial institutions over the past few days.

The attacks come as the site's funding is being bled dry.  Last week Paypal announced that it was suspending the site's primary donations account, saying Wikileaks violated its terms of service by supporting criminal activity.  That left only a Swiss Bank account, a Swiss credit card processor, and an Australian post office box. 

Earlier this week the Swiss bank account PostFinance announced it also had suspended Wikileaks.  While the news followed Wikileaks publishing a list of top locations worldwide for terrorists to harm U.S. national security, the bank says its decision was made primarily because Wikileaks' founder lied in the paperwork he submitted to the bank.  In the paperwork Julian Assange claimed to be a Swiss resident, when in fact until his recent arrest, he resided in Iceland.

On Monday Mastercard announced that it would be blocking any donations to the site, due to it supporting illegal activity.  On Tuesday Visa announced a similar decision.  With the world's two largest credit card companies blocking donations, that leaves that lonely P.O. box in Australia as the sole means of donations.

Enraged, the site's allies embarked on a campaign of cybercrime.  Using a twitter account @anon_operation and posting in online forums, the allies organized attacks on Paypal, Mastercard, and PostFinance.

The attacks succeeded in making PostFinance unaccessible earlier this week and taking down MasterCard's homepage briefly earlier today.  The rogue twitter comments, "We are glad to tell you that [] is down and it's confirmed. Operation: Payback (is a bitch!)"

Wikileaks has not officially endorsed the attacks on its web page on Twitter, nor did it condemn them.  The identity of the owner of the pro-Wikileaks Twitter account is unknown.  The attacks do seem to organized by posters on the popular imageboard site 4chan.

James Issokson, spokesperson for MasterCard stated, "The issue appears to be the result of a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access.  We are working to restore normal service levels."

He confirmed that while the attacks took down the company's home page, his customers' credit cards were still going strong, with virtually no service interruption. 

Likewise, despite an "attempted DDoS [denial-of-service] attack" over several days, PayPal spokeswoman Charlotte Hill concludes that the efforts to harm the site were largely unsuccessful.  States Ms. Hill, "These attacks have at times slowed the website itself down, but have not significantly impacted payments."

International authorities are investigating the recent round of attacks and possible relations to Wikileaks volunteers.

While the attacks have angered many in the financial community, Wikileaks has at least one remaining ardent supporter.  Swiss credit card firm DataCell claims that MasterCard and Visa's decision to suspend Wikileaks donations is illegal.  The company says it plans to take legal action against the credit card firms, stating, "The suspension of payments towards WikiLeaks is a violation of the agreements with their customers.  This does clearly create massive financial losses to WikiLeaks which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension."

"People Don't Respect Confidentiality in This Industry" -- Sony Computer Entertainment of America President and CEO Jack Tretton

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