After Julian Assange was taken into custody in London on Tuesday, hundreds of anonymous activists banded together under the banner "Anonymous" to attack the websites of various corporations involved in the controversy.
With an unprecedented level of coordination, users of IRC chat rooms developed a program that allowed them to take control of others' computers once they opt in to participating in the attacks, equatable to a sort of voluntary virus. Incredibly simple and convenient, once the file is on a user's computer, the leaders of the attack have full access to utilize the machine in a coordinated distributed denial-of-service assault, CNN reports.
"Operation Payback", as participants call it, targets primarily the financial institutions (Visa, Mastercard, and Paypal) that stopped payments to Wikileaks' accounts after a governmental request and amazon.com because it took down the Wikileaks website when it was hosted on Amazon's servers, citing a terms of service violation, the Star Tribune reports.
CNN reports in a different article that the attacks have been largely unsuccessful. Mastercard's was the only website of those targeted to actually go down for any determinate amount of time, and it appears from the lack of user complaints that the others continued to operate smoothly.
Even so, Anonymous is not resting on their laurels. Wired News reports that since last night a website version of Anonymous's application has gone up, allowing anyone with the most basic knowledge of how to operate a computer to collaborate in the assault.
Important to note is that the website does not incorporate any means of IP address masking, which means that anything a particular machine does through it is entirely traceable. This is of particular concern since three people have been arrested in connection with the attacks and two convicted, Wired reports.