Posts Tagged ‘WikiLeaks’

“Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that has” –Margaret Mead

I doubt Mead ever thought her quote and my writings of cyber warfare would ever meet. But it was this quote that echoed in my head on December 8th, 2010.

Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Amazon, and a few others were targets of what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDos, attack. In the simplest of terms, it is as if someone or thing went to a website and hit the refresh button thousands upon thousands of times. When multiple attackers are involved, and the amount of times the website is refreshed is increased, the web site goes down.

Behind this attack was a group known as “Anonymous”. The group comes from the image board 4chan.org, which is a completely anonymous website that allows is users to post photos and text. They are responsible for many internet Memes and underground humor. 4chan’s creator, Moot, advocates the need for anonymity to foster honest conversation, and has even been recognized with his on Ted.com talk on the subject. Aside from internet shenanigans, 4chan is also for activism.

4chan and Anonymous stand behind freedom of speech, and rallied behind WikiLeaks. When it was discovered that Visa and MasterCard denied processing of donations to WikiLeaks and Amazon suspended WikiLeaks hosting on their servers, Anonymous was angered. They launched “Operation:Payback” against these companies using said DDoS attacks. In order to bring down these sites, fortified for high traffic, they would have to be organized and in mass numbers.

That is what surprised me. Not willing to compromise their identities and remain “Anonymous”, they did this without e-mail, phone numbers, or names. I can barely organize a group dinner without sending at least ten text messages, yet they were able to organize and attack that took down Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal consisting of almost 5,000 strong. Using vintage technology like Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and their nameless boards, they were able to take the servers out and suspend the access to these websites1, each soldier nameless.

Their message was heard.

The attack did minimal damage. While Visa and MasterCard websites went down, their processing servers were not affected. PayPal saw slower servers, but no downtime.

It did prove the power of the collective. Five-thousand stood up against what they didn’t believe in. Five-thousand anonymous people made their voices heard. They did not need names, they were one being.

The collective of garage hackers brought down the corporation. With barebones resources, they were able to take down giants.

David and Goliath, if there were 5,000 Davids. But there were. And it worked.


1 Amazon.com was not affected in the raid. Their servers have proprietary technology to prevent such an overload due to the massive traffic they get around the holidays.