Who: Computer hackers.
What: A group of internet activists calling itself ‘Anonymous’ or ‘Anonymous Operations’ have launched a series of cyber attacks, titled ‘Operation Payback’, to shut down the websites of Mastercard, a Swiss bank and the Swedish prosecutor’s office in an apparent retaliation for actions taken against WikiLeaks.
Where: The online activists targeted the internet websites of Mastercard, PostFinance, Visa, and the Swedish lawyer who is representing the two women who allege they were raped by Julian Assange in Stockholm, Sweden.
When: The attacks started on Monday, 6 December when PostFinance, the Swiss bank that suspended Julian Assange’s bank account, saw its website taken down by online attacks. The Swedish Prosecution Authority website was targeted on Tuesday, 7 December while attacks on the website of US Senator Joseph Lieberman, Mastercard, Borgstorm and Visa took place on Wednesday, 8 December.
Why: Viral messages posted on the internet, some called “Operation Avenge Assange”, are urging people to campaign on behalf of WikiLeaks and take part in “the first info war ever fought in order to restore online freedom”. Online hackers initiated the attacks against the websites of a number of companies, including Visa Europe, Mastercard, PayPal and Amazon when they cut off ties with WikiLeaks after coming under intense pressure by the US government.
How: Hackers appeared to be using denial service attacks against the websites, in which computers across the internet are harnessed to jam sites with an overload of requests for data, stopping their sites from functioning.