December 8, 2010, 5:06 PM

WikiLeaks supporters take down MasterCard and Visa web sites

However, the attacks did not affect online retailers’ ability to accept payments.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

Lead Photo

WikiLeaks supporters who dub themselves Anonymous organized their efforts on Twitter.

A group of WikiLeaks supporters who dub themselves Anonymous took down MasterCard.com and Visa.com for several hours today. However, it seems online retailers could still accept payments throughout the outage. MasterCard.com is now accessible; Visa.com was not, as of 4:30 p.m. CST.

The group reportedly launched a denial-of-service attack—a form of hacking in which criminals crash a site by flooding it with requests—in response to MasterCard and Visa’s moves to cut off payments to the controversial site, which has released a flood of secret government documents to the public in the past few months.

However, it seems the attacks have not prevented online retailers from accepting Visa or MasterCard payments. A handful of retailers told Internet Retailer they could still take card payments throughout the day.

“Everything is good on my front,” says Eric McCoy, CEO of shoe retailer Heels.com. “There’s been nothing strange on any payment front.”

Independent clothing retailer Moxsie.com also says it was not impacted. “We haven't seen any complaints or issues so far,” says Julia Kung director of marketing for Moxsie.

Mitch Lieberman, CEO and founder of One Way Furniture Inc., No. 406 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, also reports no problems related to the attack. “I don’t believe MasterCard payments were affected based upon the data we are looking at,” he says. Home improvement e-retailer Build.com, No. 97 in the Top 500 Guide, also says the hacks did cause any disruptions to accepting online payments.

According to the Anonymous Twitter page, the attacks are part of an ongoing campaign, called Operation:Payback, that fights against “major anti-piracy & anti-freedom entities.”

Recent posts on the Twitter page include: “Hackers Take Down Visa.com in the Name of Wikileaks, Wow, this is getting crazy,” “IT’S DOWN, KEEP FIRING” and “NEXT TARGET: WWW.VISA.COM. GET YOUR WEAPONS READY!” 

The Swiss bank used by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange also was hacked for freezing the leaders account, according to the group’s Twitter page.

“Hacking has become a tool for making political statements,” says Mike Gualtieri, a senior analyst who specializes in payment security at Forrester Research, Inc.  “Having said that, firms better not let themselves become victims of these types of attacks. I am truly amazed at how many firms do not do comprehensive threat modeling and vulnerability mitigation.”

Visa says that Visa.com is currently experiencing heavier than normal traffic.  “The company is taking steps to restore the site to full operations within the next few hours.”

MasterCard did not immediately respond for a request to comment.

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