Hacktivism and Wikileaks

Thursday, December 09, 2010

To show their support for Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, hackers attacked websites of corporations such as PayPal and MasterCard who have been making it difficult for the controversial site to function. John Abell, New York Bureau Chief for Wired, discusses this recent form of cyber warfare and Marcia Hoffman, Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney, weighs in on the first amendment ramifications of shutting Wikileaks out of funding, or prosecuting them for the cable dumps.

For a summary of their conversation, go to It's A Free Country.


John Abell and Marcia Hoffman

Comments [49]


I work for one of the targets and all I can say is that all this crap is simply mildly annoying (from a business perspective), but terribly fun to watch; especially to see the mindless horde as they think they've succeeded in something.

Their DDOS have had little to no real affect (to anyone) business continues, outages are to nothing of import. The reason the sites in question went down is nobody wanted to fund against this type of attack against a non-revenue generating site.

The fact that this happened actually is probably good, as it forces those with rule over the funds to actually consider implementation of what should have been done to all the sites in question, not just the revenue sites.

Why MasterCard, Visa and PayPal even bothered taking action is beyond me (there's nothing to gain by it). Until Wikileaks is declared as a terrorist org, there's no real business reason to do anything. People aren't going to stop buy on credit, debit or online funds transfer because a corp didn't take action against Wikileaks, nor are these "protesters" going to because the corps did.

Dec. 09 2010 11:26 PM

interesting question!!!
i hope it gets fixed. maybe the government "asked" wnyc not to do it?

Dec. 09 2010 03:22 PM

Why isn't this segment available for streaming?

Dec. 09 2010 02:20 PM
Edward from NJ

I'd like to qualify my earlier statements. At least some part of these DDoS attacks are coming from a voluntary botnet. So if you support the protest, you can get involved. Put your bandwidth where your mouth is! All you have to do is download some software from a questionable source that will let a member of Anonymous use your computer and internet connection to launch attacks. It's illegal, so you may face criminal penalties. Your ISP may cancel your account. And once it's one your computer you may have a hard time getting it off. But you're fighting for freedom, right?

Dec. 09 2010 12:40 PM

tracy and others in similar straits, i'm sorry.

however, these hackers are doing something for me. I'm angry with Visa and others denying service to wikileaks, because i can;'t make a donation. Visa has no right to do this. they are not private, in spite of what they say. i can't function anymore in this world without a credit card. i can't buy tickets to fly, to go to a concert etc etc without a card. i can't buy these tickets with cash, because they are sold out buy the time i want to get one.

Visa and other cards should be punished for their arbitrary actions just as Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.

The hackers are also speaking for those like me without a way to protest what Visa and others have done.

I'd love to be able to destroy my card, but i can't because they have forced them selves on us, so they must also accept uses like wikileaks.

it is a double edged sword, methinks.

Dec. 09 2010 12:22 PM
Edward from NJ

@Donna from NYC: "What the anonymous group is doing is similar to blocking the entrance to a building"

Yes, it would be -- if they were doing it with their own bodies. The problem is that the entrance is really wide and there aren't that many of them.
Look up how a distributed denial of service attack is executed. The metaphor is about to get stretched really thin, but they're effectively kidnapping people and making them join the picket line.

Dec. 09 2010 11:41 AM

Taher from Croton on Hudson
they just wasnt to question him, and make sure he does not disappear

Dec. 09 2010 11:37 AM
Why credit? from Manhattan

I don't buy this "Mastercard and Visa are the free market and can do what they like" argument. I feel I am forced to use those companies - for example, I can't rent an apartment without a credit history etc. It's not a free market at all. There are no real alternatives - they are the monopolies. So the "free market" is a smokescreen in this case.

Dec. 09 2010 11:37 AM
Tracy from Manhattan

I run a small non-profit theater company here in the city and we use PayPal for our online donations. No PayPal means no donations for us and I am sure there are many other non-profits in the same situation. I'm know WNYC takes visa/mastercard donations. How many donations will you not get this week because in that moment a person is inspired to donate they can't do it.
I'm all for fighting for free speech, but these hackers are really hurting non-profits.

Dec. 09 2010 11:34 AM
Vladimir from Brooklyn, NY

It's free country... until Mr.Ahashi allows it. Seen that commercial of father puling a plug on his son playing guitar? The attacks are justified as long as Credit card companies get upon themselves the policing function without the court decision. They have to experience all the unpleasanties of being dragged into the fray they have stake in. On the other hand the Amazon's actions may seem reasonable as they booted clearly illegaly obtained content and may be liable for facilitating deliver of stolen goods

Dec. 09 2010 11:32 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Julian Assange’s rape allegationis about not using rubbers during sexual intercourse. That’s Sweden for you; you need a signed permit, and confidentiality form to have sex.

Dec. 09 2010 11:31 AM
mike from NY

The media seems to be ignoring the rape charges against Assange. When were these charges brought? Are they only an attempt to bring him in because of the Wikileak document dump, as the media coverage seems to suggest?
No matter what the document dump means, if he raped someone, he certainly deserves justice.

Dec. 09 2010 11:31 AM
Donna from NYC

Re: to SuzanneNYC
"Would anyone here condone burning down someone's business in retaliation for a particular action some people don't like? How is that different from these cyber attacks to disrupt these commericial web sites?"

It's very different. What the anonymous group is doing is similar to blocking the entrance to a building, much like people that form picket lines during strikes. They aren't destroying anything, they are just blocking access.

Dec. 09 2010 11:30 AM

To those who complain about the effects on innocent citizens of attacks on Mastercard or Amazon.... The US has attacked nations, killing hundreds of thousands -- KILLING them.

And Americans are fretting about delays in their Christmas shopping....

A perfect example of just how pathetic American thinking is.

Dec. 09 2010 11:27 AM

The door to all this was opened by the illegal actions of the Bush-Cheney administrations. How lovely it would be to see those cables.

Dec. 09 2010 11:26 AM
anon from BKLYN

Not only is Sarah Palin's horrible speech supported (by huge corporations) it is encouraged. She advocates for discriminatory legislation and frankly hatred. She gets what she desreves

Dec. 09 2010 11:26 AM
Donna from NYC

FYI Etsy sellers: Etsy will let you set your profile to accept checks or money orders.

Dec. 09 2010 11:25 AM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

With the proliferation and easy transmission of digital info, it is incumbent upon organizations to secure their own data and information since it is so easy to cart it off, no one else.

Dec. 09 2010 11:25 AM
Peter from Brooklyn

hacking sites like paypal, visa, mastercard etc is ruining the daily transactions of millions of 'normal' 'decent' citizens. this is a response from people who think they have moral authority to do whatever they want in the name of some sort of 'justice' but why is behaving WORSE than any government desirable? I thought the idea with wikileaks was to send a message to the world that transparency and fairness is the way to go. but here the opposite is going on....

Dec. 09 2010 11:24 AM

for those of you flirting w the idea of president bloomberg (incl bl im guessing),

remember how easily he dismissed -- arrested, improperly, the courts later decided -- the "freedom of assembly" and speech demonstrated during the 2004 GOP convention in nyc.

easy to imagine his kneejerk position on this issue as prez.

Dec. 09 2010 11:24 AM

Would anyone here condone burning down someone's business in retaliation for a particular action some people don't like? How is that different from these cyber attacks to disrupt these commericial web sites?

Dec. 09 2010 11:23 AM
Andreas from NYC

The government has egg on its face and it is using its influence to wipe it off. None of these companies would have acted unless there wasn't a government connection. Every dime you drop on your plastic, is money to them in transaction fees. Hacking is not the way to get corporate to push back at the government, withholding your money from their pockets. Pay cash, use another card, pay by check or bill pay. See how fast they reopen the line to Wiki, or increase the rates to all.
This is EXACTLY why we need Wiki and others like it. Freedom of speach reminds us just how real our government is and how they truly behave. Shame on them.

Dec. 09 2010 11:23 AM
Hugh Sansom

If "Martin Chuzzlewit" is going to mock callers like Ann, maybe he/she should have the decency to stop hiding behind the moniker. Stop being a coward, "Martin".

Dec. 09 2010 11:23 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Steve, kudos.

Dec. 09 2010 11:21 AM
Donna from NYC

Do you all know that Amazon is now selling the Wikileaks cables?

Dec. 09 2010 11:21 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Caller Ann-

You think (giggle, giggle) that the payback is great and you are "sorry for the side effects" (giggle, giggle).

How self-sbsorbed and pathetic.

Dec. 09 2010 11:20 AM
April from Manhattan

Reminds me of a comment by a businessman talking about Black Friday the other day on Brian's show. He said that not only was it easier for customers to shop from home but easier for companies because they don't have to hire as many workers. Viscious circle. If folks don't have jobs, how are they going to buy anything from

Dec. 09 2010 11:20 AM
Spencer from Midtown

Amazon is selling wikileaks content as a Kindle book:

Dec. 09 2010 11:19 AM
Hugh Sansom

This is directly parallel to the conspiracy (and it meets the legal definition of conspiracy) of the telecoms to engage in spying on Americans and millions or others at the behest of the US government.

After the fact, the Congress immunized the telecoms against legal action by the victims of that telecom collusion -- the victims being us.

Just one telecom that I'm aware of (Quest if I remember correctly) refused to submit to US government political terrorism.

Dec. 09 2010 11:19 AM

is it ok to buy from

Dec. 09 2010 11:18 AM
Sara from Bushwick

Thanks for the shout out to Etsy sellers and the financial problems that micro businesses are experiencing because of this!

Dec. 09 2010 11:18 AM
Anon from BKLYN

Visa and Mastercard don't diplomatically discuss concerns about freedom of speech. They deny service. What good for the goose......

Dec. 09 2010 11:18 AM
kd from nyc

Wikileaks isn't "speaking" anything. What are they expressing? Nothing.They're releasing classified documents. No speach

Dec. 09 2010 11:14 AM
Taher from Croton on Hudson

Right, Mastercard, Amazon were “forced” by the US government to end it’s relationships with WikiLeaks.
Let’s have a discussion about.

Dec. 09 2010 11:14 AM
Edward from NJ

The assumption that it's government pressure cowing the companies in this story is dubious. The commercial pressure is far more important. If Amazon, for instance, had continued to host Wikileaks, we would be discussing the -- probably ineffective -- anti-Wikileaks boycott of that site today.

Dec. 09 2010 11:12 AM
Hugh Sansom

Let's remember that Wikileaks was subject to hacking just a few days ago -- those attacks were almost certainly US government sponsored.

More important, on what grounds do Mastercard or PayPal or Amazon take it upon themselves to act as police for the US government?

Will they do likewise if China or France demand likewise?

Dec. 09 2010 11:12 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Is Sarah Palin's freedom of speech ptotected?

She speaks her opinion about national security and her family's personal finances are hacked and disrupted. What phony tolerant "progressives" here on the Left !!!!!!

Dec. 09 2010 11:10 AM

when did corps get free speech rights?

Dec. 09 2010 11:10 AM

These corporate entities have a responsibility to both their shareholders and their customers. As customers, we trust them to serve without political censorship. So I totally support the cyber attacks, as the ONLY way to get them to take notice. If they want to play politics they now have to answer to their shareholders.

P.S. I am only sorry the lawyers for the 2 Swedish women were included -- for they are only doing their job.

Dec. 09 2010 11:10 AM
infowantstobefree from Upstate Manhattan

Great strategy, guys.... there's no better way to alienate the Great American Public than to get in the way of its shopping!

Dec. 09 2010 11:09 AM
Stephen Rathe from New York

I'm incensed by the underhanded US (and other countries) actions to make private companies deny service to WikiLeaks, But I'm not convinced that direct attacks on important providers are the response of first resort.
I do hope that there is some court with jurisdiction for WikiLeaks to proceed in a civil (or criminal) case against the providers and services.

Dec. 09 2010 11:07 AM

If congress would just end net neutrality this kind of thing would stop. China doesn’t have these types for problems. One corporation should administer the internets then we can have world peace and profit.

Dec. 09 2010 11:07 AM
Donna from NYC

They aren't hacking, they are protesting. This is what protesting looks like on the Internet.

Dec. 09 2010 10:44 AM
Edward from NJ

If millions of people were upset with Mastercard, Paypal, et al and flooded their sites with traffic in protest, that would be the online equivalent of a sit-in or picket line. That would be a protest in the tradition of great social movements throughout history. This *isn't* millions of people. It's hundreds of people using technology to amplify their voices. That's something very different. Among other methods, they're probably using bot networks that rely on worm-compromised computers belonging to average people. The computer you're using to read this comment may be helping with the protest right now.

Dec. 09 2010 10:44 AM
Paul I. Adujie from New York, United States

Accountability, Transparency and Good Governance is ADVANCED and PROMOTED through actions such as WikiLeaks and I can live with this fact.

Freedom of Information Act or FOIA is crucially valuable to best business practices and good governance....

Accountability, Transparency and Good Governance is ADVANCED and PROMOTED through actions such as WikiLeaks and I can live with this fact.

WHO EXACTLY is afraid of the truth, the evidence and the fact?

Truth or Dare? Let the facts come out and let the chips fall where they may, no matter whose ox is gored? right?
I am an advocate of FOIA or Sunshine Laws... FOIB


American political leaders acting in concert to bring about a successful coup in a sovereign nation...

We must read and dig deeper into these WikiLeaks exposes before we "defend" them with our last blood!

I encourage everyone to READ these... they are a treasure trove... hypocrites are exposed and how the world works is laid bare!

Why do they publicly "champion-promote" democracy, while rooting for coups? Please!

Hilary Clinton and Eric Holder for their words or you have been deceived by their damage control rebranding efforts so far?

Mrs. Clinton as Secretary of State asked American diplomats to illegally obtain the biometrics of diplomats of all other nations

Attorney General Eric Holder of the United States says crimes may have been committed by WikiLeaks and associates

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says there is breach of protocol and security etc

Israel PM, Binyamin Netanyahu says, WikiLeaks did a good job of revealing what some leaders do not want their citizens to know

I like FOIA, just as I like WikiLeaks as it exposes public policy HYPOCRITES

These debates about WikiLeaks is just about stupid leaders goofing off who are embarrassed for goofing off at the expense of other leaders

Most responses here on NVS make me wonder whether their reactions would have been the same .... were these EXPOSE' against Nigerian political and private sector leaders.

State Secrets: Wikileaks reveal Devastating US Documents

Dec. 09 2010 10:25 AM
Capitalist Comrad from schewantake, Aughty

Chinese rulers believe they can control the internet...

Why cant our Dick Chainys do the same here?

Dec. 09 2010 10:09 AM
Paul I. Adujie

Julian Assange must take solace and be consoled in what Camus once said, Camus said, it is absurd to fight lost cause, but more absurd to neglect to fight worthy causes, even if Julian Assange is in the end jailed or assassinated!

Meanwhile, the rest of us, can now be rest assured that western nations’ mythologies about accountability, transparency, press freedom, the inviolability of fact, or that truths are incontrovertible, are farcical distractions intended merely to derail global competitors, the gullible and undiscerning worldwide.

Think about this, it is now being insisted upon, that, secrecy, frauds and deceits are legitimate tools of American and western diplomacy and governance? But how about the familiar sanctimonious accountability, transparency and press freedom etc?

WikiLeaks & Julian Assange, Heroism, Courage, Visionary of Our Time

Dec. 09 2010 10:04 AM
What ur Politician Cost from Folks County, MO

This activism is not without merit.

Visa, Mastercard, Amazon and others are being POLITICALLY pressured to not provide their services.

Some of these companies are legalized MONOPOLIES (visa mastercard)

how are you supposed to protest against them??

Dec. 09 2010 10:01 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Ruthless cyber attacks on law officials, big banks, and now the Palins personally.....gee, that's OK.... and the BLS will get talking heads to discuss its merits....naughty or nice.

But,if right wing hackers (instead of these activists on the anarchic far left) were shutting down WNYC and NPR.....I don't think that Brian would engage in a "debate" with all sides considered (or "all things considered"). And there wouldn't be the usual knuckleheads here posting defenses that the hackers were "heroes".

(Gee, will I be hack-attacked for saying this?) It's a little scary. Remember what happens when you keep silent after they come for the neighbor next door.

Dec. 09 2010 09:39 AM

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