Hacktivists to Target British Government over Assange

Amazon and PayPal fended off numerous online attacks on Thursday by supporters of the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks. The retailer giant and the online payment service, both of which appeared to be functioning smoothly yesterday, suffered the wrath of hackers who all week have been launching retaliatory attacks against them because they had severed business ties with WikiLeaks.

The freedom of speech group took to their twitter account to parade the ploy to target Amazon with a message posted on profile that stated: "Target: www.Amazon.com locked on!"

The anonymous group has since threatened that it would target British government websites if Mr.Assange, who is currently being held by metropolitan police, was extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted over allegations of sexual assault.

The 1,500 network of online activists has already sabotaged the websites of MasterCard, Visa and the Swedish government with millions of malevolent visits in the intent to haul them offline.

The hackers who call themselves "Operation Payback", launched the attacks after the internet giants announced that they would no longer accept donations to the Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organisation.

Gregg Housh, an American internet activist who formerly worked with the hackers, said: "They will go after the weakest links, because they want to see results. They will probably test a few sites and then decide."

Mr Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan Police's extradition squad earlier this week after Swedish prosecutors issued an international arrest warrant. He is due to appear before City of Westminster magistrate's court on Tuesday, where his lawyers will attempt to secure his release on bail.

He has been accused by two women of one count of rape, two of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion. He denies the allegations and says that the sex was consensual.

The actions so far have fundamentally been attacks by volume, known as DDoS or distributed denial of service, in which the marked site is hit with a mass quantity of traffic with the intention of exceeding its capabilities and consequently forcing it to crash.

With the most recent attacks, hundreds of volunteers have downloaded a botnet tool called 'Low Orbit Ion Canon'(LOIC). It is usually used to stress-test servers, but instead is being used to fire traffic to someone else's server, which aids the distribution of the command to attack the site.The volunteers are told to hold fire until a signal is given on an internet chat room before activists launch the massed protest.

News reports on friday suggest that internet sites are actively reinforcing security measures and puting strategy plans in place to back up all systems. PayPal, who was just one of the sites targeted in the attacks, has said that it is increasing the man-power to monitor attacks and devise countermeasures.

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