WikiLeaks posted the first of over 250,000 leaked US State Department documents last week. Since then, the site encountered severe setbacks. Now it looks like it has an unlikely but potentially powerful ally.
Since the leak began last week, WikiLeaks has gone offline several times due to Denial of Service attacks from hacker th3j35t3r, who has released a statement on his twitter account explaining that he bought the WikiLeaks website down “for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations.”
Until recently WikiLeaks have used Paypal to collect donations for their site. But since the last leak Paypal have suspended Wikileaks’ account. Their statement on this read “PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.” WikiLeaks has accused them of bowing to US government pressure.
Hosting companies such as Amazon.com and EveryDNS were also quick to sever their ties with Wikileaks, making hosting the website increasingly difficult. The French government has also promised to ban Wikileaks from French servers.
There have also been rumours that Twitter is censoring mentions of WikiLeaks, preventing it and other related words from appearing on the list of trending topics.
Politicians have spoken out publicly against Assange. Sarah Palin questioned, on her official facebook page, why Assange is “not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders”. She then goes on to wonder why the American government does not use “cyber tools” to “dismantle wikileaks”.
Julian Assange has even been added to the Interpol Most Wanted list. He has made the list for charges which Swedish authorities bought against him just over three months ago but swiftly dropped due to “lack of evidence”. However the charges were bought against Assange again, this time on an international level, three weeks ago.
It now appears Assange and Wikileaks have gained an unlikely but potentially extremely powerful supporter in the shape of Anonymous, a massive group of net activists born out of the popular 4chan image board.
This looks like the kind of protest and call-for-boycott that appears on many websites. But the differences between Anonymous and other sites are two-fold: volume and experience. There are more of them than you can possibly imagine and they’ve made protests like this before, with incredible success.
The first time Anonymous came to mainstream media attention was in their numerous protests against Scientology which began almost three years ago. They were on a larger scale than many could have predicted and cost Scientology a large amount of time and money. They continued for a number of years with a voracity few would expect from an online protest.
Other Anonymous projects have varied in size and include: attacks on a white supremacist radio host, a mass uploading of pornography to youtube in protest of their removal of music videos and a particularly persistent attack on the teen leader of a “no cussing” club.
Most of these actions are organised on the /b/ board on 4chan. The anonymity built into 4chan (there are no usernames and no way to differentiate between users unless they wish to be differentiated), the quick turnover of the site (even the most popular threads are deleted within a couple of hours, although many get saved on a separate site named 4chanarchive) and the wide dispersal of 4chan users have inadvertently made it a perfect place for organising extremely large groups of people in a way that’s almost impossible to track. All it takes it a few people to originate an idea (or an easily run DDOS program) and then the power of hundreds of thousands (whether it be in real life or simply processing power) can be put behind it.
Anonymous’ move against Paypal has already begun. Last night they launched a denial of service attack which lasted eight hours and caused “numerous service disruptions”.
If there is any doubt in your mind that the moves made by Anonymous have only just begun, or that they are a real threat, consider the 2009 poll by Time magazine to find the year’s most influential person. Even though Time had several people employed to prevent hacking, Moot, the creator of 4chan, topped the poll. This is pretty impressive on its own. However the story doesn’t stop there. Instead, it soon emerged Anonymous had decided the first 21 entries in the list and what order they appeared in. Certainly an internet force to be reckoned with, and one that Assange will probably be pleased to have on his side.