Cyberwarfare: the end of the beginning?
[ Image Source ]
International ruling elites, mortified by their own words and actions as revealed in cables recently released by WikiLeaks, have called upon their allies and lackeys to use every means at their disposal to discredit or destroy the leaks site. As detailed in my previous essay on this subject, their assault has been four-pronged, including building a legal case against the site; economically strangling it by directing Paypal to cut off its primary conduit for donations and closing the Swiss bank account it used for a legal defense fund; bringing false charges against its founder, Julian Assange, and attempting to condition the public to associate the site, through Assange, with rape; and using hackers to bring down its servers with targeted distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that provided its DNS company with a pretext for depriving it of its domain name.
But WikiLeaks has friends as well as enemies, and they have not been idle.
This article tells of one such friend: the hackers’ group Operation Payback, which has now released a statement saying that, while it had no previous affiliation with the leaks site, it found the mission of the latter laudable and compatible with its own, and vowed to attack any entity that acted against WikiLeaks. Meanwhile, the group successfully shut down the website of PostFinance, the Swiss bank that froze WikiLeaks’ funds; it has also launched attacks on MasterCard (which had previously severed services to WikiLeaks), Sarah Palin (who has called for WikiLeaks to be declared a terrorist organization), Paypal and a variety of other sites belonging to corporations that have acted against WikiLeaks.
Now, however, Operation Payback has fallen victim to counter-payback: As of this writing, its site is completely unavailable, thanks to the efforts of other hackers presumably in the employ of an entity injured by it or offended by the WikiLeaks revelations. But even decapitating Operation Payback is unlikely to kill its initiatives; such organizations are hydras that sprout two heads for every one cut off.
This clash, between governments that demand the right to decide our fate in secret and activists who demand that the people be allowed to learn what their rulers are doing, will not soon subside. As each side begins to use all the weapons at hand, the internet skirmish has begun to take on the characteristics of cyberwarfare and the dimensions of a world war, and the outcome is anyone’s guess.
Julian Assange may become Time magazine’s Person of the Year. Meanwhile, and for the best of reasons, WikiLeaks and its travails now present journalists with what is quite probably The Story of the Century. The revolution may not be televised, but it will pervade the internet and launch a thousand thousand YouTube videos; for now we can see the panic in the eyes of the powerful, and their empire of secrecy, tyranny, injustice and hubris may finally look upon implacable Nemesis.