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DDoS bombardment spreads: Op Payback to spare Twitter

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Online "warfare" between the friends and enemies of Wikileaks continues, with an increasing number of organisations involved.

The hacktivist collective Anonymous, operating under the banner Operation:Payback, has continued to mount various types of hacking attacks including DDoS strikes – supplemented by the use of illegal botnets – against targets assessed as being anti-Wikileaks. The anarchic hacker group has itself been subject to online interference from still-shadowier adversaries, perhaps self-styled American "patriots" who consider that Wikileaks' ongoing public drip-feed of classified US files allegedly passed to it by US soldier Bradley Manning (now in military custody) must be suppressed.

Payment organisations such as MasterCard, Visa and PayPal are being consistently hit by Operation:Payback, with ongoing website outages and some interference with payment operations reported by multiple sources. Anonymous members are angry with the payment firms for refusing to process contributions to Wikileaks, which can be presumed to be hurting Assange's organisation as Wikileaks' Icelandic payment processor is now threatening legal action against MasterCard and Visa.

Apart from the money movers, Anonymous has also attacked US Senator Joe Lieberman's official government site, causing outages, and that of erstwhile vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin – in both cases for making public statements critical of Wikileaks or its spokesman Julian Assange.

There are also suggestions that as the online "infowar" escalates, outside observers are being targeted by one side or the other. A blog run by security firm Panda Labs, which has followed the DDoS battle closely and is one of the best sources of information, has itself come under DDoS attack - though it's not clear from which side.

Similarly there has been much discussion among the anarchic Anonymous collective on attacking Twitter – it being suggested that Twitter has purposely prevented the "infowar" becoming a trending topic under various tags. Meanwhile the @anon_operation Twitter account purporting to be a channel for Anonymous announcements has been suspended: but there is now a new one, Op_Payback. (Various media have quoted an individual using the alias "Coldblood" as an Anonymous spokesman, and it's entirely possible that this person is participating in the Op Payback effort, but Anonymous purists despise the use of individual handles in public – we're told that the term among the inner circle for one indulging in such antics is "namefag"*).

Anonymous will spare the 'Twitosphere'

Our sources*, however, suggest that the Anonymous consensus does not favour attacking Twitter. We're told:

Many news outlets reporting Twitter as potential target, this is not the case and never will be. There were some poorly informed calls to target the Twitosphere yesterday but we got their facts straight.

Anonymous also insists that it is on top in the online fight:

Your claim that this is somehow a two sided fight with patriotic dos-ers is flawed, counter-attacks have been minimal in effectiveness.

Panda Labs' analyst begs to differ, stating that anonops.net – the internet headquarters of Operation:Payback – has suffered many outages, though mostly brief in duration. As this piece is written, the hacktivist portal was showing 504 gateway time-out errors from London. Panda Labs has had little success in identifying who could be behind the DDoSing of Op Payback, but it is presumably a subset of those who have been mounting attacks against Wikileaks itself for some time.

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