Australian retailers may have a few problems today processing Mastercard transactions after a group known as Anonymous hacked into the company’s online operations following Mastercard’s decision to stop processing payments to the whistle-blowing site Wikileaks.
In what they called “Operation Payback”, a network of online activists have targeted firms including Mastercard and Visa, in the latest front of the battle over leaked US diplomatic cables.
The group, known as Anonymous and thought to be 1,500 to 2,000-strong, flooded the websites of the credit card companies, and that of the Swedish prosecution authority, with millions of bogus visits.
Their attack came after the financial giants, along with the online payment firm PayPal, announced they would no longer process donations to the anti-secrecy group.
The credit card sites among several targeted by the group of hackers, who have pledged to pursue firms that have withdrawn services from Wikileaks. In other moves consumers are reporting that Visa’s website appears to be experiencing problems. Anonymous also claimed to have attacked Visa.
A Harvey Norman franchisee said it was too early to tell whether there were problems in Australia while a JB Hi Fi operator said that to date no issues have been reported.
In the UK the BBC was contacted by a payment firm linked to Mastercard that said its customers had “a complete loss of service”.
In particular, it said that an authentication service for online payments known as Mastercard’s SecureCode, had been disrupted.
Other readers have also said that they have had problems with online payments. The scale of the problems is still unclear.
Mastercard has not responded to the claims.
It said in a statement that it was making “significant progress” in restoring full service to its website as we wrote this story.
“Our core processing capabilities have not been compromised and cardholder account data has not been placed at risk,” it said.
“While we have seen limited interruption in some web-based services, cardholders can continue to use their cards for secure transactions globally.”
Annonymous said that websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets.”
PayPal, which has stopped processing donations to Wikileaks, has also been targeted. On Monday the US owned firm said Wikileaks’ account had violated its terms of services.
“On 27 November the State Department, the US government, basically wrote a letter [to Wikileaks] saying that [its] activities were deemed illegal in the United States,” PayPal’s Osama Bedier told the Le Web conference in France.
Before the Mastercard attack, a member of Anonymous, who calls himself Coldblood, told the BBC that “multiple things” were being done to target companies that had stopped working with Wikileaks or which were perceived to have attacked the site.
“Websites that are bowing down to government pressure have become targets,” he said.
“As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means.”
“We feel that Wikileaks has become more than just about leaking of documents, it has become a war ground, the people vs. the government,” he said.
Supporters of Australian Julian Assange yesterday also launched cyber attacks on the Web site of the Swedish prosecutor’s office which is seeking the extradition of Assange form the UK over sexual misconduct charges.
PandaLabs, a malware detection laboratory, says that the prosecutor’s Web site, aklagare.se, was brought down by members of the cyber “hacktivist” group.
The attack came as Assange was refused bail by a British judge over the charges that aim to have him extradited to Sweden.
Sean-Paul Correll, a threat researcher at PandaLabs, confirmed that the group had launched the attack, not only on the Swedish prosecutor’s Web site but also others including PayPal and the Swiss Post Office bank which have frozen WikiLeaks accounts – though the Swiss bank says he can have the $41,000 proceeds as soon as he establishes another, legal, account, something that may be difficult if he’s languishing in a Stockholm jail.