01:35 PM

WikiLeaks Botnet Continues Attack On MasterCard Site

"Hacktivists" say their denial of service assaults aren't intended to steal personal financial data, rather to raise awareness of companies that stopped doing business with WikiLeaks.

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The pro-WikiLeaks attacks against companies that stopped doing business with the whistle-blowing organization continued over the weekend, with the MasterCard Web site suffering sporadic bouts of downtime. Likewise,, which stopped doing business with WikiLeaks in August, saw some downtime.

The pro-WikiLeaks botnet appears to be powered solely by volunteers who download and run the attack code -- dubbed Low Orbit Ion Cannon -- in manual, server-controlled, or JavaScript versions. While the JavaScript version runs directly in a browser, which makes counting the number of installations or executions difficult, the other versions of the software have so far been downloaded more than 67,000 times.

Unlike traditional botnets, which aim to steal financial information, the pro-WikiLeaks botnet relies on volunteers, calling themselves the Anonymous Group, who willingly install the software on their computer. But that may change.

According to Tal Be'ery, Web research team lead at Imperva, "by monitoring back-channel communication, we have found recommendations to create a [denial of service] utilizing JavaScript that can be run from [the] browser with no installation required. The Anonymous Group plans to camouflage the JavaScript behind appealing content -- such as pornographic images -- to entice users into unknowingly executing attacks."

Given that maliciously oriented botnet operators already use such techniques, "it isn't surprising that hacktivists are using similar techniques," said Imperva CTO Amichai Shulman.

But a statement released on Friday, reportedly from the Anonymous Group, was careful to differentiate the group's activities from criminal enterprises that aim to steal people's personal information. "Anonymous is not a group of hackers. We are average Internet Citizens ourselves and our motivation is a collective sense of being fed up with all the minor and major injustices we witness every day. We do not want to steal your personal information or credit card numbers."

The group also said it was purposefully targeting companies' Web sites, rather than their critical infrastructure -- such as MasterCard or PayPal's ability to process payments. "Our current goal is to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks' ability to function."

On a related note, on Friday, WikiLeaks issued a statement saying that it's not affiliated with the Anonymous attacks, which it neither endorses or criticizes. "This group is not affiliated with Wikileaks. There has been no contact between any Wikileaks staffer and anyone at Anonymous," according to a spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson. "We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks. We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets."

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