Palin's WikiLeaks war and the growing cyber army

Sarah Palin, widely considered to be a possible Republican candidate for president in 2012, says she's under heavy attack from pro-WikiLeaks hacktivists.

This was to be expected. She did, after all, suggest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange be hunted down as if he were a terrorist working for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

Palin informed ABC News by e-mail that her credit card information and website were hit by a group of London-based hackers with ties to "Operation Payback." Her husband's credit card has been compromised too, she says.

My colleague, Leo King, writes:

In an outburst on Facebook, Palin had branded Assange "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."After the attack on her site, Palin wrote: "This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his [Assange's] sick, un-American espionage efforts." This week, the same group of hackers, acting under the name 'Anonymous', also hit the domains of Visa and Mastercard, bringing the sites to a halt and hitting payments.

Did I mention yet that this case is getting stranger by the day?

I'm actually surprised PETA didn't think of this kind of response when Palin decided to be interviewed in front of a turkey slaughter house a couple years ago, with turkeys being killed right behind the seemingly oblivious governor.

On a more sober note, the pro-WikiLeaks cyber army is growing fast.

My colleague Gregg Keizer writes that "the retaliatory attacks by pro-WikiLeaks activists are growing in strength as hackers add botnets and thousands of people download an open-source attack tool."

More from his article:

Most of those participating in the attacks are using the LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon) DDoS tool, said researchers with Imperva and Sophos.

The open-source tool, which is sometimes classified as a legitimate network- and firewall-stress testing utility, is being downloaded at the rate of about 1,000 copies per hour, said Tal Be'ery, the Web research team lead at Imperva's Application Defense Center.

"Downloads have soared in the last two days," said Be'ery in an interview. As of 4 p.m. ET, more than 44,000 copies of LOIC had been downloaded from GitHub.

LOIC has become the DDoS tool of choice in the pro-WikiLeaks attacks because users can synchronize their copies with a master command-and-control server, which then coordinates and amplifies the attacks.

Since this drama continues to unfold at warp speed, CSO has put together a timeline to help you sort it all out. Check it out here.

--Bill Brenner

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