WikiLeaks supporters step up cyber war

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LONDON: Hackers stepped up their cyber war in support of WikiLeaks on Thursday as the embattled whistleblowers released memos showing that the United States views China as a “pernicious” competitor in Africa.
The Swedish government’s website was forced offline after a group calling itself “Anonymous” vowed to intensify its “war of data” against Mastercard, Visa and other groups which have blocked funding to WikiLeaks.
Organisers of the group said thousands of volunteers had joined the defence of WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, who is in jail in London on an extradition request from Sweden over sex crimes allegations.
“This is a war of data, we are trying to keep the Internet open and free for everyone, just the way the Internet has been and always was,” said a spokesman for Anonymous, a man with a British accent calling himself “Coldblood”.
“Some of the main targets involve Amazon, Mastercard, Visa and PayPal,” he told BBC radio.
In an online chat with AFP, organisers said they had started with only around 50 users taking part in the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that bombard websites to take them offline, but now had around 4,000.
“We recruit through the Internet, that means, everywhere: imageboards, forums, Facebook, Twitter… you name it, we’re using it,” they said. Twitter and Facebook later removed accounts for the Anonymous group’s “Operation Payback” campaign on the grounds that it was targeting individuals. As well as Mastercard, Visa and PayPal, hackers have also shut the website of the Swiss Post Office bank for severing ties to WikiLeaks and the website of the Swedish prosecutor’s office for pursuing Assange.
The latest apparent victim was the Swedish government, according to a report in the country’s top-selling daily newspaper.
Aftonbladet said the official government website, http://www.regeringen.se/, was offline for a few hours overnight to Thursday, publishing a screen shot which showed the server could not be reached.
The paper also reported that WikiLeaks supporters had created a website bearing Swedish Justice Minister Beatrice Ask’s name which then redirected users to WikiLeaks own site.
Members of Anonymous also took aim on Wednesday at the websites of US conservative standard bearer Sarah Palin and US Senator Joe Lieberman, who called for US companies to withdraw technical support for WikiLeaks.
Palin has described Assange as “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and called for him to be hunted down like Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.