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WikiLeaks supporters take MasterCard offline

The cyber-battle over WikiLeaks—and its now-jailed founder Julian Assange—continues to spread. The primary Web site for credit card company MasterCard has been taken offline by an apparent denial of service attack—the site has been offline for several hours and remains inaccessible as of this writing. Various groups supporting WikiLeaks—including 4chan’s “Anonymous” and Operation: PayBack—have claimed credit for the attack on Twitter and other channels, saying the action is in retaliation for MasterCard blocking WikiLeaks from its payment network.

Groups of attackers—likely including many of the same people—also took a Swiss postal service bank PostFinance offline earlier this week, after the bank announced it had cut off Assange’s accounts, claiming he had “provided false information recarding his place of residence.” WikiLeaks supporters have also targeted online payment service PayPal, although PayPal has so far remained accessible.

WikiLeaks founder is currently in jail in London, fighting a Swedish extradition order. Swedish authorities have charged Assange with rape and other sex crimes based on complaints filed by two women. Assange has denied the charges.

The WikiLeaks Web site has caused significant diplomatic concerns for releasing various classified materials and diplomatic cables related to the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as confidential internal communications concerning the United States’ relationship with key allies. The communications have revealed U.S. doubts about the reliability of allies like Pakistan and conveyed unflattering portrayals of various world leaders. The cables have also revealed a U.S. wish for Saudi Arabia to conduct a military strike against Iran, and raised questions about the Chinese government’s role in this year’s cyberattack on Google.

Reports have U.S. authorities considering whether espionage and other charges can be brought against Assange for releasing material in classified documents.

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