MasterCard sites down, Anonymous claims responsibility

MasterCard sites down, Anonymous claims responsibility

Summary: The Anonymous group of online activists claims to have taken MasterCard's sites down by DDoS attack, in reprisal for the company refusing to process donations to Wikileaks

TOPICS: Government, Security

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 — — 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."

Operation Payback image

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 — — 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.

Topics: Government, Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The times they really are a'changing aren't they?
    No longer can governments hide behind secrecy, and now individuals can throw their weight about with the same devastating consequences that once upon a time only big corporations could.

    At this rate we could actually have freedom and democracy in my lifetime instead of government by a self opinionated/important elected dictatorship which is what appears to pass for democracy at the moment.
  • The real question here is:
    How can a company doing business in the UK... act on the behalf of a foreign government's request (Visa-MaterCard, Paypal) and to the detriment of it's UK customers (who wish to donate to Wikileak) and still keep their licence to do business in Britain?
    This should be illegal (it is I believe in the US).
  • Unfortunately, the history of rule by lynch mob isn't particularly heartening - at least in the long term. I'm all for effective protests (what's the point of the ineffective sort?), and that can mean chucking the metaphorical half-brick at times, but without something coherent and reasonable to back it up, it's just vandalism - and counterproductive.
  • Hmm, vandalism means senseless destruction. I understand you need to take a responsible line here Rupert but I'm inclined to think that the forces of law and order descending on a single website while using all sorts of spurious semi-legal excuses for their actions demand some sort of response, preferably, as you say, an effective one.

    If it makes those forces think twice, then it's worked, no?
    Manek Dubash
  • After all what’s the point of freedom and responsibility and opportunity if you are denied such things only to have the world figured out and sold to you in convenient episodes that so often serve to conveniently serve the indoctrinated/vested power bases and their infomercial packages?

    After all is it really all about freedom as Mastercard so often boasts in its commercials? I wonder...