(Photo: Fernando Filho / Flickr)
Web pirates are waging cyberwarfare in defense of WikiLeaks, and I had a rare glimpse into the hacktivists' hidden world of Internet sabotage in a secret chat room as the faceless hackers orchestrated the attack that temporarily shut down www.Visa.com on Wednesday evening.
Hidden behind screen names like Power2All and Bizzaro, hacktivists involved in the Operation Payback campaign logged into a temporary and remote Internet relay chat (IRC) room to share information on the ongoing Visa attack, swap web addresses, tell jokes and give updates on the international media coverage of their cyberwar against the enemies of WikiLeaks and free information.
An anti-authoritarian organization - if you can call it organized - called Anonymous launched Operation Payback revenge attacks against Mastercard, Visa and PayPal after the companies began blocking donations to WikiLeaks in light of the recent release of thousands of US diplomatic cables.
Amid pornographic images and nasty jokes, I found a link to the Operation Payback IRC on a thread at 4Chan.org, an open source image posting site. Anonymous and its supporters sometimes post announcements and flashy anti-copyright propaganda on 4Chan.org despite complaints from regular users, who seem more interested in naked woman and bathroom humor.
Earlier this week, Anonymous activists temporarily shut down the web sites of a server that dropped the WikiLeaks domain name and a Swiss bank that froze the defense fund for WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. Anonymous is not affiliated with WikiLeaks.
The Anonymous hacktivists used DDoS attacks, a popular hacking technique that floods web site servers with too many requests, to temporarily shut down the sites.
Mastercard.com went down early Wednesday morning, and by mid-afternoon chat rooms frequented by hackers were buzzing with plans to take down Visa. A now-defunct Operation Payback Twitter feed soon called for an attack on the Visa web site, and by 5:00 p.m. EST the web site went down.
Mike Ludwig is a Truthout Fellow.