MasterCard websites in Europe and the US went down on Wednesday, with a group of hackers claiming responsibility.
The Anonymous activist group says it brought down the websites using distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks in reprisal for MasterCard ceasing to process donations for Wikileaks. The whistleblower site is in the process of releasing hundreds of thousands of US government diplomatic cables.
"Tango down — mastercard.com — Restricting funds to Julian Assange and #Wikileaks. All countries should be down, too," read a Twitter post from an account linked to Anonymous on Wednesday. "There are some things Wikileaks can't do," a further tweet read, in an apparent parody of MasterCard's marketing slogans. "For everything else, there's Operation Payback."
Anonymous has targeted a series of websites with its Operation Payback campaign. Photo credit: Darren Pauli/ZDNet Australia
The 'Tango down' reference was to a hacker called The Jester (th3j35t3r) who said he had launched DDoS attacks against Wikileaks and other websites. All of the hacker's posts claiming successful DDoS attacks began with the phrase 'Tango down'.
MasterCard said in a statement that its corporate website was still up, and that card payments were functioning normally. However, tests run by ZDNet UK on Wednesday indicated that both the MasterCard corporate and UK websites were inaccessible.
"MasterCard is experiencing heavy traffic on its external corporate website — Mastercard.com — but this remains accessible. We are working on this to restore normal speed of service," the company said. "There is no impact whatsoever on our cardholders' ability to use their card for secure transactions."
MasterCard said on Monday that it would stop accepting payments destined for Wikileaks, alleging that Wikileaks's activities were illegal.
Anonymous is a disparate group of people that has been running a series of DDoS attacks against pro-copyright organisations as part of a campaign called Operation Payback. On Saturday, the group began an attack that it claimed brought down PayPal's blog, in reprisal for PayPal ceasing to accept payments to Wikileaks.
PayPal said in a blog post on Friday that it had permanently restricted the Wikileaks account as the PayPal payment service "cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity".
Technology publication Wired UK quoted PayPal platform vice president Osama Bedier as saying at a conference on Wednesday that the US government had told Paypal Wikileaks had acted unlawfully. "PayPal's Osama Bedier asked why blocking WikiLeaks payments. 'State Dept told us these were illegal activities. It was straightfwd'," a tweet from the publication read.
Anonymous has claimed it has attacked other financial organisations that have withdrawn as Wikileaks funding mechanisms. The group said it had targeted Swiss post office PostFinance after the organisation froze Wikileaks funds destined for the legal defence of Wikileaks editor Julian Assange in an ongoing extradition case to Sweden.