The Tech Herald

Anonymous keeps the cannons firing while pressure mounts

by Steve Ragan - Dec 9 2010, 14:00

Anonymous’ protest against those it views as a threat to free speech continues. However, as the LOIC cannons keep blasting out pressure, they are also taking fire from several directions. The most recent development is the apparent censorship of an article on Operation Payback.

Encyclopedia Dramatica, while not officially associated with Anonymous, has been host to information on many of its efforts. On Wednesday, according to Gawker, the Wiki-driven site was ordered to remove information regarding Operation Payback, the codename for the latest series of attacks against organizations that have moved against WikiLeaks.

“Some sites have received federal court orders to cease any further online documentation of the attacks…Among the sites where content is coming down is Encyclopedia Dramatica, which we're told received one of the orders,” the Gawker report said, noting that the information came from a source close to the situation.

Operation Payback started as a campaign by a subgroup of Anonymous (AnonOps) against the anti-piracy efforts of groups such as the RIAA, MPAA, ACS Law, AiPlex, and AFACT. Things came to a head in the campaign when it was revealed that AiPlex had been hired to launch a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) against The Pirate Bay.

Before it was ordered to remove the entry, Encyclopedia Dramatica hosted the history of Operation Payback, which included contact information for those organizations targeted. Also, some of the information collected was of a personal nature.

The campaign has gained further traction this week after Anonymous targeted companies that—in its eyes—attacked WikiLeaks.

Thus far, Operation Payback has taken the fight to MasterCard, Visa, the Swiss bank Post Finance, the PayPal blog and, at 2:50 a.m. GMT, PayPal.com itself. Each of these attacks has succeeded in knocking the impacted sites offline, but not all of them were down for an extended period.

MasterCard was reportedly offline for several hours, but returned quickly in some areas. The site was sluggish when operational for most of the day on Wednesday. Visa went down as well, but returned to full operation after about an hour. Post Finance was crippled, and remained offline until Anonymous moved on to another target.

At the time of writing (12:57 a.m. EST), PayPal.com was offline completely. However, the actual address Web address: https://www.paypal.com, was online.

Moreover, attacks have been launched against websites such as: advbyra.se, which is owned by the lawyer representing the two women accusing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual crimes; aklagare.se, the domain of the Swedish prosecutors; EveryDNS.com; Joe Lieberman’s Senate website, and Sarah Palin’s sarahpac.com.

What Anonymous is doing, with regard to the DDoS attacks in support of WikiLeaks, is illegal. It knows this, and has chosen this form of civil disobedience as a way to support free speech nevertheless.

It also knows it will suffer some punishment for its actions and, aside from the loss of information on a loosely related website, one of the Twitter accounts used by Operation Payback (Anon_Operations) was suspended by the microblogging site. In addition, Anonymous is facing DDoS attacks of its own. At times, the AnonOps domain has been dropped offline and there have been several issued with its IRC network.

The Tech Herald's attempts to contact the operators of Encyclopedia Dramatica have so far been unsuccessful.

While the Gawker report says the site was ordered to remove the information, the exact reasoning is presently unknown. However, when searching the site for Operation Payback, we were redirected to the front page. A Google cache link contains the missing information. 

We’ll keep track of the takedown of Operation Payback information and report on any new developments as and when they emerge. 

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