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WikiLeaks Supporters Step Up Cyber Attacks

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A group supporting the WikiLeaks website has vowed to step up what it is calling its "data war" against groups that have cut funding for the website.

In interviews Thursday, spokesmen for the group, calling itself "Anonymous," vowed to intensify attacks in defense of the website and its founder, Julian Assange, whom the group views as a martyr for free speech.

The group claims it has recruited volunteers through online social networks to help them with the attacks.

The group took credit for disabling major credit card websites MasterCard and Visa in retaliation for denying service to WikiLeaks. It says it also has attacked websites in Sweden where Assange is wanted on sex crime charges.

The group has used denial of service attacks, which overwhelm a website with data requests.

"Anonymous" rallied its supporters in a Twitter post Wednesday, calling for them to get their "weapons" ready to attack the Visa website for the next phase of "Operation Payback."

Both Visa and MasterCard have stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks as the online organization faces tremendous political pressure for publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

WikiLeaks released a cable Wednesday showing that in February 2010, U.S. officials lobbied Russia on behalf of MasterCard and Visa to ensure that a proposed Russian law did not adversely affect their businesses.

There are now more than 1,000 Internet "mirror sites" hosting WikiLeaks content, which is more than double the number of sites that existed days ago.

An executive of the online payment company PayPal said Wednesday it decided to suspend its business with WikiLeaks after the U.S. State Department said the website's activities are illegal.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a Twitter message that the U.S. government did not write to PayPal requesting any action regarding WikiLeaks.

The website's founder, Julian Assange, surrendered Tuesday to authorities in Britain and is in custody while he fights extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sex offenses.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny said the investigation has nothing to do with WikiLeaks and that she has no intention of handing Assange over to the United States if he is extradited to Sweden.

Article by VOA News