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Spam downloads surge among WikiLeaks supporters
LONDON (AP) - WikiLeaks supporters on Friday downloaded increasing amounts of the spam-shooting software used to attack companies seen as hostile _ a development that could challenge even Internet giants such as PayPal and Amazon.com during the crucial Christmas shopping season.
U.S. data security company Imperva says downloads of the attack program used to bombard websites with bogus requests for data have jumped to over 40,000, with thousands of new downloads reported overnight.
The freely available software is a critical part of the campaign by “hacktivists” seeking to take revenge on sites they believe have betrayed WikiLeaks, the group that has outraged American officials by publishing hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables and military intelligence reports.
Users who download the software essentially volunteer their computers to be used as weapons that volley streams of electronic spam at targeted websites. The more computers, the greater the flow of data requests, and the better chances are of overwhelming the targeted website.
The cyberguerillas, who gather under the name Anonymous, have generally been successful in foiling their enemies. Attacks directed at the main pages of Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. succeeded in making them inaccessible, in MasterCard’s case for several hours. Attacks on online payment company PayPal Inc. have periodically rendered part of its website inoperative. Moneybookers.com, another targeted site, was inaccessible Friday.
WikiLeaks has been careful to distance itself from Anonymous, saying “we neither condemn nor applaud these attacks.”
A press release circulated under the Anonymous name Friday said the group was acting “to raise awareness about WikiLeaks and the underhanded methods employed by the above companies to impair WikiLeaks‘ ability to function.”
Imperva said Friday that it had monitored Anonymous supporters boasting about bringing in huge numbers of extra computers to back the attacks _ something it said might challenge Amazon.com _ another site that cut its ties to WikiLeaks _ at one of the retailer’s busiest times of the year.
But Be'ery stressed the boasts were unconfirmed, and the Anonymous statement said its members did not want to alienate the public by causing online havoc over the holidays.
“Simply put, attacking a major online retailer when people are buying presents for their loved ones would be in bad taste,” the Anonymous release said.
Dutch police said Friday they were investigating whether hackers were responsible for taking down the websites of police and prosecutors in the Netherlands after the arrest of a 16-year-old suspected cybercriminal and alleged WikiLeaks supporter.
In Australia, WikiLeaks supporters held rallies Friday in Brisbane and in Sydney, where more than 500 people gathered outside Town Hall, some waving signs that read, “Hands off WikiLeaks, We deserve the truth,” and “Don’t shoot the messenger.”
One man sealed his mouth shut with tape on which the words “NO LEAKS” was written.
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