NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Hackers sympathetic to Wikileaks were continuing efforts to bring down PayPal's website tonight and promising to go after Amazon later, threatening to disrupt web commerce just as the holiday shopping season approaches its peak.
"Remember: current target is api.paypal.com, port 443," a hacker using the Twitter handle @AnonOpsNet, for Anonymous Operations, tweeted on Thursday afternoon. "KEEP FIRING!!"
PayPal received the brunt of the attacks after Amazon got a reprieve earlier in the day. "Okay, we have changed our target -- the Hive isn't big enough to attack Amazon," the person behind Anonymous Operations tweeted around noon. "NEW TARGET: api.paypal.com. Port: 443. SPREAD THE WORD."
PayPal's site has so far survived the assaults, which are coming in the form of distributed denial of service attacks, or DDoS. "The PayPal.com site is fully operational," a spokeswoman said in a statement to Ad Age. "We can confirm that there have been attempted DDoS attacks on paypal.com. These attacks have at times slowed the website itself down, but have not significantly impacted payments."
But both PayPal and Amazon remain at risk during a crucial time for e-commerce. The hackers focusing on them have already successfully disrupted both MasterCard and Visa's sites. Similarly disrupting Amazon and PayPal in the midst of the all-important holiday shopping season would take a bite out of at least some potential transactions and deal real blows to their reputations for stability and security.
Amazon did not return a call seeking comment.
Attacks a 'reflection of public opinion'
Wikileaks, for its part, is seeking to distance itself from the actions of its supporters -- without exactly asking them to stop. "These denial-of-service attacks are believed to have originated from an internet gathering known as Anonymous," a statement on the Wikileaks site reads. "This group is not affiliated with Wikileaks. There has been no contact between a Wikileaks staffer and anyone at Anonymous. Wikileaks has not received any prior notice of any of Anonymous' actions."
"We neither condemn nor applaud these attacks," the statement quotes Wikileaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson saying. "We believe they are a reflection of public opinion on the actions of the targets."
The Wikileaks drama opened a new front this week as MasterCard, Visa and PayPal stopped processing donations to the group and an Amazon subsidiary stopped hosting the WikiLeaks site on its servers, all in response to Wikileaks' latest release of classified information.
Reports suggested that Amazon Web Services dropped Wikileaks because of a government inquiry; Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the committee on homeland security, had reached out to Amazon shortly before it removed Wikileaks from its servers.
A message on the Amazon Web Services site denies it acted because of any government inquiry. Amazon Web Services also confirmed that Wikileaks itself had been the subject of "large scale DDoS" attacks, but said that it had successfully defended the site and that the attacks had not prompted it to drop Wikileaks.
Violated terms of service
The message went on to say that while Amazon Web Services does not pre-screen customers it does have terms of service. Wikileaks, it said, was not following those terms.
"We've been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS," the message said. "Some of this data is controversial, and that's perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn't rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won't injure others, it's a violation of our terms of service, and the folks need to go operate elsewhere."
While Amazon's reasoning for parting ways with Wikileaks is straightforward, that doesn't mean that some won't accuse the company of censorship. People on Twitter and Amazon's own site are criticizing the retailer for refusing to host Wikileaks while continuing to sell WikiLeaks-related texts. There was brief confusion and outrage over one particular eBook that appeared to contain the confidential material Wikileaks had disclosed. Now that eBook carries a disclaimer noting that it contains commentary and analysis, not the original material disclosed by Wikileaks.