According to a report published by Internet research organization Netcraft (www.netcraft.com) another attack against the credit card company by Anonymous, the nebulous association of internet users behind the "Operation: Payback" attacks managed to take its website offline Sunday.
The first attack, which took place last Wednesday, succeeded in disrupting the performance of MasterCard's payment processing systems, along with those of Visa and PayPal. Netcraft says consumers reported problems using credit cards online, and businesses reported a disruption in trade.
Anonymous is difficult to characterize, without a distinct group, structure or leadership. But the activities around the "Operation: Payback" attacks are generally thought to be retaliations against organizations that have denied service to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which has been at the center of a widely-covered controversy since releasing the contents of confidential US diplomatic communications two weeks ago.
Among the payment processors mentioned, PayPal suspended WikiLeaks' use of its donation button, while MasterCard and Visa moved to stop the organization from receiving payments using its products.
The attacks are being conducted via a kind of voluntary botnet of users who have installed the LOIC attack software, and orchestrated via the group's IRC channel.
According to Netcraft, the exact volume of computers involved in the attacks is hard to track, because some users have been reporting problems running the software, while others have been using a browser-based version of the software. Some of the attacks are reported to have involved at least 2,000 machines.
The network of Anonymous resources online is similarly difficult to pin down, as web-facing pieces seem to only be able to remain online temporarily, whether due to attacks against them, or because they have been suspended by service providers. The site at anonops.eu, referenced in the Netcraft story, was already offline as of Monday morning.
According to Netcraft, the weekend attack against MasterCard was originally directed at www.mastercard.com, but later switched to mastercard.com, which is served from a different IP address.
The www.mastercard.com site, which was only offline for a few hours, is currently online, with a message stating, "MasterCard has made significant progress in restoring full-service to its corporate website. Our core processing capabilities have not been compromised and cardholder account data has not been placed at risk. While we have seen limited interruption in some web-based services, cardholders can continue to use their cards for secure transactions globally."
The WikiLeaks saga has, more than any other event in recent memory, thrown the business of web hosting, DNS and various other Internet services under a very public microscope, with some interesting results.
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