Paypal confirmed on Monday that it “permanently restricted” the account used by Wikileaks, citing a violation of its Acceptable Use Policy. The action was just the latest by government and private sector organizations in response to the recent publication of leaked diplomatic cables from the U.S. Department of State and could add to official and unofficial attempts to deny the information leaking organization an operational foothold.
PayPal’s action came after the company, which is a division of online auction site eBay, determined that Wikileaks was engaged in activities that “encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity,” a violation of Paypal’s Acceptable Use Policy, said Anuj Nayar, Director of Global Communications at PayPal.
Paypal’s announcement put the online payments giant in the crosshairs of an escalating online feud between hacker-activists supporting and opposing the publication of the leaked documents. The umbrella hacking-activist group Anonymous announced plans to target the Paypal Website with a distributed denial of service attack starting Monday evening.
Anonymous claims to be acting in response to PayPal’s decision to stop processing payments to Wikileaks, a decision they perceive as promoting a policy of censorship, but also to the slew of DDoS attacks being launched against Wikileaks. They are saying these attacks are part of ‘Operation Avenge Assange,’ an extension and reformation of ‘Operation Payback.”
Media reports noted that the PayPal blog went down for a few hours Saturday morning and attributed the outage to a denial of service attack against the company. PayPal spokesman Nayar denied that, claiming that the outage was the result of an internal infrastructure issue. However, he acknowledged that the incident is still under investigation.
Wikileaks’ Web site has been the target of denial of service attacks, which began even before the group published the leaked diplomatic cables as part of a campaign it dubbed “Cablegate.” While the source of those attacks isn’t clear, a hacker using the handle th3j35t3r claimed responsibility for it, citing the need to retaliate for the leak. More recently, Wikileaks has enlisted the services of hundreds of mirror sites to host the cablegate documents in an coordinated effort to keep them from being driven from the Internet.
However, as new diplomatic cables were released and outcry from the leaked contents of those cables grew, it became harder and harder for Wikileaks to maneuver. PayPal followed Amazon as the latest big American company to deny their services to Wikileaks, while U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Monday that he authorized “significant actions” related to a criminal investigation of Wikileaks.