HUA HIN, Thailand - A wave of
cyber-attacks swept across the Internet this week
as a vigilante network of hackers, known only as
"Anonymous", targeted websites and corporations it
believes to have caused harm to WikiLeaks
following the release of a number of confidential
Those in the firing
line included Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, all of
which withdrew the ability for people to donate
funds in support of WikiLeaks. In what has become
known as "Operation Payback", cyber-dissidents
used simple tools to carry out denial of service
attacks on the credit card companies and render
their websites offline.
compromised computers known as botnets are
typically used by hackers to simultaneously make
multiple requests for information from a website,
which overloads it and
knocks it off the net.
This week's attacks were more of a grassroots
effort, with the group taking to social networking
websites to expand support.
Facebook have become embroiled in the Wiki war as
the group of hacktivists used both social sites to
boast about their accomplishments, spread the
software used in the attacks, and recruit more
members to their cause.
In their early
days, Facebook and Twitter were seen as beacons of
free speech that would stand up to governments and
defy web censors. However, in the corporate world
of today, both companies are trying to sell
advertising and so find themselves caught in the
digital quagmire between allowing total freedom of
expression and toeing the corporate line.
Facebook was the first to flounder by
removing one of the groups' pages, citing
violation of its terms and conditions which forbid
users inciting violence or unlawful activities. A
company spokesman said Facebook had not received
any official requests to disable pages or accounts
associated with WikiLeaks.
Twitter was a
little more lenient by allowing the Operation
Payback account to remain in operation for most of
Wednesday but closed it after the posting of a
link to a file containing consumer credit card
details following the hacks. WikiLeaks' own
Twitter account remained active at the time of
writing. The site itself has been widely blocked
by governments across the globe.
also came under attack as the company pulled the
plug on its WikiLeaks account following some
strong-arming by the US State Department earlier
this week. Activists used Twitter and other online
channels such as the large file sharing site, The
Pirate Bay, to urge account holders to withdraw
their funds and close their Paypal accounts in
protest against the move.
Also targeted by
the Anonymous group was Amazon.com following its
decision to close servers that hosted WikiLeaks
files. A fine line is forming on this new
digital frontier. On one side resides free-speech
advocates and their increasingly sophisticated
methods of protest and action; on the other, a
growing number of social websites that appear on
the surface to be in support of the cause but
which also need to respect the mighty dollar and
their own business ethics. It is a tough balancing
act that very few Internet organizations appear
able to master, with most eventually falling
squarely into one category or the other.
Software Google is on a mission
to inundate the world's machines with its own
operating system and it has continued striving for
that goal this week by introducing a prototype
Chrome OS-powered notebook.
boasts a 10-second boot time, a 12-inch screen, a
full-size keyboard and touch pad, and eight hours
of battery life. Although Google is not aiming to
start selling the gadget until mid-2011, it does
want to get the wrinkles ironed out of the system
first; "We're not done yet, but Chrome OS is at
the stage where we need feedback from real users.
Some of the features of Chrome OS require new
hardware, but we didn't want to sell pre-beta
computers," the company said.
launched its own web store this week in an effort
to tussle with rival Apple, which has the most
successful one on the market. Google's store,
which has been modeled on mobile-application
stores, will allow users to "install"
applications, making them easily accessible from
Chrome’s new tab page. The concept of installation
should not be necessary on a cloud platform
though, as everything will be stored on Google's
The cloud platform is being fully
embraced by the world's favorite search company,
so much so that it may be worth taking a step back
and considering if you really do want to give a
company that derives 97% of its revenue from
advertising access to all of your private and
personal documents and files.
to that premise, users will need a permanent,
stable, high-speed Internet connection if they
want any hope of getting some work done in
Google's cloud. Most of Asia and a large chunk of
the rest of the world does not yet have that
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.