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Operation Avenge Assange

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The events described in this article were concurrent with and to some extent overlap with those in Operation Leakspin

Following the whistleblowing organization WikiLeaks’ unprecedented expose of documents, most recently those containing US diplomatic cables which have roused, if not radicalized, spirited support for what is hoped to be a new capacity of the power of knowledge, and the usual broken-record (ad nauseum) right wing spin about security, and the abuse of government power and legal procedure against WikLeaks founder Julian Assange, to the extent of surveillance on his legal counsel:

This article contains content from Wikipedia. Current versions of the GNU FDL article Operation Payback on WP may contain information useful to the improvement of this article WP

In December 2010, elements of the US government criticized Assange, and pressed the affiliates of WikiLeaks to halt their transactions with the Swiss-based website.

Corporations such as Amazon, PayPal, BankAmerica, PostFinance, MasterCard and Visa either stopped working with or froze donations to WikiLeaks, some due to political pressures.

WikiLeak’s server host Amazon dropped their hosting of the WikiLeaks servers less than a day after being contacted by the office of Senator Joe Lieberman, while PayPal ceased all transactions of funds donated by the supporters of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. Visa, and most recently, Mastercard, followed PayPal. Official statements from these respective companies cite such reasons as Terms of Service violations and pending investigations.

Anonymous, an anarchistic amalgamations of hacktivists who undertake protests and other actions under the notional title "Anonymous," which derives from the same meme as its use on the internet, determined to respond.

File:Avenge Assange Anonymous.png
As with most images everywhere, especially on wikis (as you probably know), click on the image to go to the file page, where the full size can be seen (for some reason, this image is particularly fuzzy in low resolution) Flier for Operation Avenge Assange


Operation Payback directed their activities against these companies for dropping support to WikiLeaks.[1][2]

Operation Payback launched DDoS attacks against PayPal, the Swiss bank PostFinance and the Swedish Prosecution Authority.[3][4][5] On 8 December 2010, a coordinated DDoS attack by Operation Payback brought down both the MasterCard and Visa websites.[6][7][8][9]

On 9th December 2010, prior to a sustained DDoS attack on the Paypal website that caused a minor slowdown to their service, Paypal announced on its blog that they would release all remaining funds in the account of the Wau Holland Foundation that was raising funds for WikiLeaks, but would not reactivate the account.[10][11]

Regarding the attacks, WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson denied any relation to the group and said: “We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks. We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets.”[12] On the same day, a 16-year-old boy was arrested in The Hague, Netherlands, in connection with the distributed denial-of-service attacks against MasterCard and PayPal.[13][14][15] The boy was an IRC operator under the nickname of Jeroenz0r.[16]

On 10 December 2010, Wikipedia:The Daily Telegraph reported that Anonymous had threatened to disrupt British government websites if Assange were extradited to Sweden.[17] Anonymous issued a press release[18] in an attempt to clarify the issue.[19]

Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow described the attacks as "the shot heard round the world—this is Lexington."[20]


Main article: Operation Leakspin

Concurrent with the Avenge Assange activities, Operation Leakspin was described by media outlets as surprising, or a new twist, or some other type of comment. This betrayed how incapable their thought process, or at least the one they were purveying, was at accurately portraying the direct action activists. It is hard to believe that someone is capable of [1] once you have demonized them as violent thugs or terrorists. Leakspin provided information, rather than denying service, but if anyone believed this to be a one-off PR action, or conversely, that Anonymous was being scared into backing away from the front line, they were sorely mistaken, as the events of the #North Africa campaign were to show.

Rather than attacking with the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, Leakspin spun off into five operations that expanded access to the WikiLeaks leaks.[21]

  • Cable Wiki[22]: Meant to serve as a wiki for the translation of cables to multiple languages, together with additional analysis of the cables
  • Sinde Gate[23]: local group providing translations and explanations of cables related to the scandal "Wikileaks cables reveal that the US wrote Spain's proposed copyright law".[24] "Sinde Gate" is named after the name of the responsible Spanish minister.
  • Operation Leakspin Quality Control[25]: a forum for quality control on the translation/analysis of the cables.
  • Operation Leakspin Blog[26]: a blog informing about the operation Leakspin.
  • Operation AnonPress[27]: An operation dedicated to pushing the US Embassy Cables further into the public domain.


File:Switch off internet in case of political dissent.jpg
A wry comment on the internet censorship in Egypt, a combination visual and written pun on the language used in building infrastructure: notices warning of electricity and fire often use similar wording

The following is a list of sites and domain known to have been targeted:

Target Site Attack time Ref.
Wikipedia:PostFinance 2010-12-06 [3]
Swedish Prosecution Authority 2010-12-07 [28]
Wikipedia:EveryDNS 2010-12-07 [1]
Wikipedia:Joseph Lieberman 2010-12-08 [29]
Wikipedia:MasterCard 2010-12-08 [30]
Borgstrom and Bodström 2010-12-08 [29]
Visa 2010-12-08 [31]
Sarah Palin (WP) 2010-12-08 [32]
Wikipedia:PayPal 2010-12-09 [33]
Amazon 2010-12-09
PayPal 2010-12-10 [36]
Wikipedia:MoneyBookers 2010-12-10 [37]
Conservatives4Palin Oh_no_you_don' 2010-12-10 [38]

Operation Payback's attempt to take down was aborted after it failed to make a significant impact on that site's performance.[34] The failed DDoS attack has been attributed to Amazon's massive server capacity, which is normally used to handle the excessive traffic during the December Wikipedia:holiday shopping season.[39]

Live to fight another day[edit]

The character of Anonymous, if it is not a contradiction to characterize one among the most loosely affiliated of organizations possible, is extemporaneous and volitive and above all, media savvy; in January of 2011, they had already begun showing signs of moving away from Assange's struggle, albeit to issues higher up in the news cycle.[40] They had already stirred powerful forces, however, who move ponderously and remorselessly. Nevermind the retaliatory cyber attacks against Anonymous itself;[40] they show the degree of hypocrisy of the powerful or their bootboys, but they are not the greatest threat that faces Anonymous.

By late December the FBI had begun to put a government's power of violence behind its investigations, using raids[41] and arrests to intimidate relatively innocent people in the know to shake loose information that would bring them closer to participants in Operation Payback.

On the 27th of January, 2011, five males aged between 15 and 26 were arrested in early morning raids in the U.K. on suspicion of involvement[40]

40 search warrants were executed on January 27 by the FBI.[42]

Anonymous responded to the arrests with threats to the UK authorities that at this point must sound familiar, and that they will probably choose to ignore, but there is no doubt on either side that the battle is well and truly on.


Anonymous began supporting the North African protestors; websites of the Tunisian Ministry of Industry and its Stock Exchange were taken down.[40] Anonymous noted Tunisia's "outrageous level of censorship";[40] Reporters without Borders (WP) counts it 164th out of 178 countries for press freedom.[43]

On January 3, 2011 Anonymous group brought down a Zimbabwean government website after President Robert Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, sued a newspaper for US $15 million for publishing a WikiLeaks cable that linked her with the alleged trade in illicit diamonds.[44]

Running the Egyptian internet blockade[edit]

Anonymous kept up the pace, and even changed up the game considerably to show the Robin Hood side of direct action, using techniques used in the 1989 Beijing protests to update Egyptians behind the information 'Iron Curtain' as Andy Greenberg dubbed it;[45] Egypt's loss of internet access had kept them from news about WikiLeaks-intercepted Egyptian diplomatic cables, but Anonymous ducked under the obstruction with a low-tech solution: Faxes.[45]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Correll, Sean-Paul Operation:Payback broadens to “Operation Avenge Assange”. Panda Security. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  2. Mackey, Robert Latest Updates on Leak of U.S. Cables, Day 9. The New York Times. URL accessed on 2010-12-07.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Tencer, Daniel Hackers take down website of bank that froze WikiLeaks funds. The Raw Story. URL accessed on 2010-12-07.
  4. WikiLeaks US embassy cables: live updates. The Guardian. URL accessed on 2010-12-07.
  5. Rashid, Fahmida Y. PayPal, PostFinance Hit by DoS Attacks, Counter-Attack in Progress. URL accessed on 2010-12-07.
  6. Weisenthal, Joe (2010-12-08). "Cyberwar: Now Hackers Have Taken Down As Revenge For Julian Assange". Business Insider. Retrieved 2010-12-23. </li>
  7. WikiLeaks supporters disrupt Visa and MasterCard sites in 'Operation Payback'. The Guardian. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  8. Horn, Leslie 'Anonymous' Launches DDoS Attacks Against WikiLeaks Foes. PC Magazine. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  9. Jardin, Xeni Continuing pro-WikiLeaks DDOS actions, Anonymous takes down Boing Boing. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  10. Muller, John Updated Statement about WikiLeaks from PayPal General Counsel, John Muller. PayPal. Archived from source 2011-01-07. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  11. Vasquez, Bertrand PayPal Vows to Release WikiLeaks Funds, Account to Remain Blocked. Erictric. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  12. Statement on DDOS attacks. WikiLeaks. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  13. The CNN Wire Staff. Pro-WikiLeaks hackers change target to PayPal. CNN. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  14. Cluley, Graham Dutch boy arrested for WikiLeaks-related DDoS attacks on Mastercard and PayPal. Sophos. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  15. Parket, Landelijk 16-jarige jongen aangehouden vanwege WikiLeaks-aanvallen. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  16. Ernesto. Anonymous’ Operation Payback IRC Operator Arrested. TorrentFreak. URL accessed on 2011-01-07.
  17. Swinford, Steven WikiLeaks Hackers Threaten British Government. The Daily Telegraph. URL accessed on 2010-12-10.
  19. Nixon, James Who are Anonymous? And what do they want?. URL accessed on 2010-12-10.
  20. Cohen, Noam (December 10, 2010). "Web Attackers Find a Cause in WikiLeaks". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 December 2010. </li>
  22. Cable Wiki mainpage. URL accessed on 2010-12-17.
  23. Sinde Gate mainpage. URL accessed on 2010-12-17.
  24. Wikileaks cables reveal that the US wrote Spain's proposed copyright law. Boing Boing. URL accessed on 2010-12-17.
  25. Operation Leakspin Quality Control. URL accessed on 2010-12-17.
  26. Operation Leakspin Blog. URL accessed on 2010-12-17.
  27. Operation AnonPress Twitter. URL accessed on 2010-12-23.
  28. Halliday, Josh WikiLeaks: Police to investigate Anonymous online attacks. The Guardian. URL accessed on 2011-01-06.
  29. 29.0 29.1 Correll, Sean-Paul ‘Tis the Season of DDoS – WikiLeaks Edition. PandaLabs. URL accessed on 2011-01-07.
  30. Esther Addley and Josh Halliday. Operation Payback cripples Mastercard site in revenge for WikiLeaks ban. The Guardian. URL accessed on 2010-12-31.
  31. Mills, Elinor Facebook, Twitter boot WikiLeaks supporters after Visa attack. Cnet. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  32. Tapper, Jake Exclusive: Sarah Palin Under Cyber-Attack from Wikileaks Supporters in 'Operation Payback'. ABC News. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  33. Prodhan, Georgina WikiLeaks supporters' group abandons cyber attacks. Reuters. Archived from source 2011-01-07. URL accessed on 2011-01-07.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Mutton, Paul Operation Payback aborts attack against Netcraft. URL accessed on 2010-12-10.
  35. Perez, Sarah Operation Payback Targets Amazon; Wikileaks Cables Found in Kindle Book Store. ReadWriteWeb. URL accessed on 2010-12-09.
  36. Update on PayPal site status. Archived from source 2011-01-07. URL accessed on 2011-01-07.
  37. Maclean, William Activists target Dutch website after boy arrested. Reuters. Archived from source 2011-01-07. URL accessed on 2011-01-07.
  38. Lazaran, Ian wheelbarrows(rich man holds your legs and stuffs shit up your arse to carry it for them) We’re Temporarily Moving Back to Blogger As We’re Under Attack. Archived from source 2011-01-06. URL accessed on 2011-01-06.
  39. Pepitone, Julianne Why attackers can't take down URL accessed on 2010-12-14.
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 40.4 Five arrested over 'Anonymous' web attacks. BBC News. URL accessed on 30 January 2011.
  41. McMillan, Robert FBI raids ISP in Anonymous DDoS investigation. URL accessed on 2010-12-30.
  42. Savage, Charlie F.B.I. Warrants Into Service Attacks by WikiLeaks Supporters. The New York Times. URL accessed on 2011-01-30.
  43.,1034.html Press Freedom Index 2010] Reporters Without Borders = Reporters sans frontières
  45. 45.0 45.1 Security1871Share13diggsdigg73inShareAmid Digital Blackout, Anonymous Mass-Faxes WikiLeaks Cables To Egypt 28 Jan '11, Andy Greenberg, The Firewall
  46. </ol>