WikiLeaks Ally Anonymous Launches Cyber War

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is still in jail, but his battle is still being fought.

The same internet power that's been used to attack WikiLeaks is now being used in its defense. A cyber war has broken out, reports CBS News London correspondent Mark Phillips.

The targets: commercial websites which have withdrawn services from WikiLeaks -- including Mastercard and Visa, which have refused to process payments to the site -- and the Swiss bank PostFinance, which froze Assange's account.

CBS News Special Report: WikiLeaks

It's being called Operation: Payback.

Hackers secretly infiltrate thousands of other online computers, whose owners are unaware of the process. They form a so-called Zombie Army of robo or slave computers that bombard the mainframes of the target companies with so many messages, the target computers slow down or crash under the onslaught.

"The group that is taking credit for this is a group called Anonymous, which is a very well-known dark side hacker group that does it for sport, that do it for retribution, they do it for attention - and that's what they're doing now," said John Abell, New York bureau chief of Wired.com.

Mastercard says its services to consumers were not affected, but the attack is a warning to other companies like Amazon and PayPal, which have also severed ties with WikiLeaks and which are being singled out on the Hacktivist internet forums.

As is the Swedish lawyer - Claes Borgstrom - who represents the two woman who have accused Julian Assange of sex offenses.

WikiLeaks itself says it is not directly behind the attacks and will continue to release secret documents. Its supporters, though, appear to have joined a cyber war they've vowed to continue and expand.

More on WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Arrested in UK
WikiLeaks: U.S. Can't Stop Middle East Arms Race
Swiss Cut Off WikiLeaks' Bank Account
WikiLeaks' Swedish Servers May Be Under Attack
Video: Julian Assange's Life on the Run
WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Strategic Sites List
WikiLeaks' Assange May Seek Swiss Asylum

  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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