Teen ar­rested in pro-Wik­iLeaks cy­ber-attacks; oth­ers pur­sued

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitic­s - BY SHAUN WATER­MAN

Po­lice and pros­e­cu­tors in Europe and the U.S. have launched in­ves­ti­ga­tions into cy­ber-attacks by sup­port­ers of the anti-se­crecy group Wik­iLeaks, as on­line skir­mish­ing over the group’s pub­li­ca­tion of se­cret diplo­matic com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­tin­ued.

The Dutch pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice on Dec. 9 an­nounced the ar­rest of a 16-year-old boy in con­nec­tion with the attacks, which have tar­geted cor­po­ra­tions that have cut on­line pay­ment ser­vices to Wik­iLeaks. A state­ment from the of­fice said the boy had con­fessed and was “prob­a­bly part of a larger group of hack­ers, into which the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues.”

The attacks have tar­geted the firms’ In­ter­net in­fra­struc­ture us­ing “dis­trib­uted de­nial of ser­vice” (DDOS) attacks, which aim to over­whelm the tar­get with bo­gus dig­i­tal traf­fic. Attacks against MasterCard and Visa web­sites and a PayPal blog ap­peared to have suc­ceeded for some hours on Dec. 8, but a much-touted at­tack against Ama­zon.com on Dec. 9 ap­peared to have fiz­zled.

“We are aware of the in­ci­dents,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr. told re­porters in Washington when asked about the attacks. “I’ll sim­ply say we’re look­ing into them.”

Of­fi­cials at the Jus­tice Depart­ment and the FBI, which typ­i­cally would lead such an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­clined to com­ment.

Sen. Ben­jamin L. Cardin, Mary­land Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary sub­com­mit­tee on home­land se­cu­rity, called for in­dict­ments. “Those that have ini­ti­ated these attacks, it’s a crim­i­nal ac­tion and they ought to be pros­e­cuted,” he told The Washington Times.

A Wik­iLeaks state­ment said: “We nei­ther con­demn nor ap­plaud these attacks. We be­lieve they are a re­flec­tion of pub­lic opin­ion on the ac­tions of the tar­gets.”

The group de­nied hav­ing any con­tact with the at­tack or­ga­niz­ers and noted that it had been the tar­get of cy­ber-attacks as well.

Other tar­gets of the pro-Wik­iLeaks attacks — which par­tic­i­pants have branded Op­er­a­tion Pay­back — have in­cluded the Swedish Jus­tice Min­istry, which has sought the ex­tra­di­tion of Wik- iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange for ques­tion­ing on sex­ual as­sault charges; a Swedish lawyer rep­re­sent­ing the two women who made the charges; and for­mer Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has called Mr. As­sange an “anti-Amer­i­can op­er­a­tive with blood on his hands.”

One of the most vo­cal groups or­ga­niz­ing the cy­ber-attacks is Anony­mous, which says in its man­i­festo that it is “a spon­ta­neous col­lec­tive of peo­ple who share the com­mon goal of pro- tect­ing the free flow of in­for­ma­tion on the In­ter­net.” The group pro­vided an on­line cy­ber­weapon that sup­port­ers can down­load to join the cy­ber-attacks.

“No won­der oth­ers are keep­ing silent about As­sange’s an­tics,” Mrs. Palin e-mailed ABC News about the attacks against her web­site. “This is what hap­pens when you ex­er­cise the First Amend­ment and speak against his sick, un-Amer­i­can es­pi­onage ef­forts.”

Anony­mous’ main pub­lic web- site was un­avail­able on Dec. 9. But, demon­strat­ing the re­silience of cy­ber­net­work­ing, the col­lec­tive con­tin­ued to use other web­sites and In­ter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions such as Twit­ter to call for and co­or­di­nate attacks.

“It’s just a group of peo­ple and what­ever ideas get floated about, if peo­ple think they’re good enough then they get acted upon,” one of the group’s sup­port­ers told the BBC.

Swedish au­thor­i­ties also said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing an at­tack against the web­site of the pros­e­cu­tor who is­sued the war­rant that led to Mr. As­sange’s ar­rest and jail­ing on Dec. 7 in London. The web­site was un­avail­able much of that evening.

The attacks and coun­ter­at­tacks to some ex­tent echo the off­line di­vi­sions of opin­ion over Wik­iLeaks and its for­merly elu­sive founder, Mr. As­sange.

Wik­iLeaks has an­gered gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions world­wide with its ex­ten­sive data dumps of se­cret ma­te­rial. But to many self-de­scribed “ne­ti­zens” — who see them­selves as In­ter­net cit­i­zens of a bor­der­less on­line world — Mr. As­sange has be­come some­thing of an icon.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian P. Assange (head turned) is driven into West­min­ster Mag­is­trates Cour t in Lon­don on Dec. 7 af­ter be­ing ar­rested on a Euro­pean Union warrant. He ap­peared for an ex­tra­di­tion hear­ing in con­nec­tion with sex­ual as­sault al­le­ga­tions...

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