The Wikileaks “Cablegate” site was hit by a massive denial of service attack that brought the site down for several hours Tuesday, forcing Wikileaks to redirect its main hosting site to a server rented from Amazon.com.
According to CBS News:
“The site, which distributed a trove of U.S. diplomatic documents on Sunday, said in a Twitter message on Tuesday morning that it was under a ‘distributed denial of service attack,’ a method commonly used by hackers to slow down or bring down sites. WikiLeaks didn’t identify the attackers. ‘We are currently under a DDOS attack,’ according to one tweet early Tuesday. Shortly after 9 a.m., another tweet was sent, saying, ‘DDOS attack now exceeding 10 Gigabits a second.'”
The denial of service attack does not appear to have been undertaken by a government intelligence agency. A shadowy, self-described “hacker patriot” who calls himself “Jester” has taken responsibility.
According to ABC News, Jester tweeted various news organizations about what he had done. “‘www.wikileaks.org – TANGO DOWN – for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations,’ he tweeted late Sunday morning.
“‘Tango down’ is a special forces military term for having eliminated a terrorist.”
Jester claims to be a former member of a US special operations unit, somewhere between the age of 30 and 50, and has been writing computer code since the age of 10. Jester claims that he takes down terrorist-recruiting websites for “30 to 60 minutes at a time” as a way to draw attention to them and disrupt their operations.
“‘I could pull them down forever but I choose to do sporadic bursts,’ he says, so that authorities will either be alerted to the hacked website, and so they can continue monitoring its visitors if they had been doing so already.
“He says he has a strategy to his hacking.
“‘I hit some sites a lot and other sites not so much,’ he says. ‘this is a tactic by hitting one site less it herds the target of these sites into it where they are easily monitored, its easier to monitor a smaller space.'”
If Jester did take down Wikileaks, his motives for doing so are obvious. The revelations of classified information, including the current dump of State Department cables, have not only proved to be an embarrassment to the Obama administration, but has placed lives at risk by indicating sources of intelligence and therefore making them targets for terrorists. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, seems unconcerned about the damage and death he is causing, but rather seems to get a psychological thrill from tweaking the United States.
Unlike Assange, Jester eschews the media limelight, turning down television interviews, preferring to remain anonymous. Jester does have his fan following from people who believe he is doing the work that US counter-terrorism agencies ought to be doing. Of course, supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks do not think well of him.
While some might suggest that Jester is violating some law by carrying out a private cyber war against enemies of the United States, he seems to be filling a niche that has not yet been filled by state counter-terrorism agencies. Jester seems to be conducting his campaign with some measure of restraint. One theory is that American authorities are aware of who he is and have turned a blind eye, giving them deniability.
On the other hand, if Jester were ever caught and prosecuted for committing cyber crimes against enemies of the United States, would he be convicted by a jury of his peers? Somehow, one doubts it.
Sources: WikiLeaks ‘Cablegate’ Site Hit By Powerful Cyber-Attack, CBS News, November 30th, 2010
Patriotic ‘Hacktivist’ Claims He Took Down Wikileaks Site, Kristina Wong, ABC News, November 30th, 2010