Dollars

December 2010


Tower insurance shares soar 42%

on directors’ Dai-ichi nod

December 29, 2010

Australia Tower Group shares surged 42 per cent to a record high as investors supported an all-cash takeover offer from the company’s Japanese cornerstone investor Dai-ichi Life Insurance.

Tower said today its directors recommended shareholders accepted Dai-ichi’s $4 per share, or $1.2 billion, offer to buy all shares it does not already own in the specialist life insurer.

The stock touched $3.88 – Tower’s highest-ever share price since splitting from New Zealand-based Tower in December 2006 – before closing up $1.14, or 41.8 per cent, at $3.87.

Over 20 million shares were traded during the day, Tower’s best daily turnover since October 2008.

IG Markets strategist Ben Potter said the hefty 46.5 per centage  premium to the Christmas Eve closing share price of $2.73 would have ruled out a competing offer.

‘‘I’d be expecting no other bidders around that price,’’ Mr Potter said.‘‘I don’t think people wouls have to think too long and hard about selling their shares at $4.’’

Dai-ichi’s offer to buy the remaining 71.04 per cent of Tower, made yesterday, valued all of Tower at $1.76 billion.

Dai-ichi general manager of international business management department, Takayuki Kotani, said the deal allowed Japan’s number two life insurer to increase its geographic diversification in the Asia Pacific region.

Mr Kotani described Tower as a profitable, growing company with good management and he flagged having a greater presence in Australia in the time ahead.

‘‘Beginning with this investment, Dai-ichi will strengthen its commitment to Australian marketplace over a period of time,’’ Mr Kotani said in a statement.

Dai-ichi, which bought its stake in Tower in August 2008 for $376.3 million and also holds insurance interests in Vietnam, Thailand and India, indicated it wished to keep the Australian insurer’s current management and independent directors in place.

Tower chairman Rob Thomas said the independent directors believed that the offer represented a ‘‘compelling premium and a highly attractive outcome’’ for shareholders.

Managing director Jim Minto said having Dai-ichi as a cornerstone shareholder for the past two years had been of great benefit to Tower’s business partners and customers.

‘‘Dai-ichi is a major life company and there is a strong natural fit that will allow continued benefits to flow for Tower’s customers, staff and business partners,’’ Mr Minto said in his statement.

Dai-ichi listed on the Tokyo stock exchange in April this year, after an initial public offering that raised $US11 billion ($10.92 billion).

Tower’s yearly results, released last month, showed the specialist life insurer’s net profit rose 88 per cent to $87.4 million in fiscal 2010 and a return on capital of 10.3 per cent.

The company did not release earnings guidlines, but said at the time it was targeting an 11 per cent return on capital in fiscal 2011 and a 13 per cent return in three years.

The directors’ recommendation of the Dai-ichi bid, which would be via a scheme of arrangement, is subject to the absence of a superior proposal and the outcome of an independent expert’s report.

It also requires court approval, the go-ahead of Tower shareholders, as well as the go ahead from Australian and Japanese authorities.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Groupon entering Australia

& daily deals sites ignite

Julian Lee

December 29, 2010

THE world’s largest daily deals website, Groupon, which Google tried to buy this month for $US6 billion, has confirmed it is entering the Australian market.

The company is recruiting people to sign up to its email database before a launch next month into a market that is becoming crowded. The No. 2 player, Living Social, abandoned plans to start from scratch in Australia, opting instead for a joint venture with an existing company, Jumponit. 

But because an existing Australian deals company has had its application to use the Groupon name in Australia approved, the Chicago company has been forced to use the domain name of Stardeals in Australia.

Groupon has engaged the lawyers Clayton Utz to take action against Scoopon, a Victorian company that has been offering online deals on products and services in Australian cities for more than four years.

Groupon lodged an intellectual property action in the Federal Court in Victoria in August and is due to go for mediation on January 21 or, failing that, to the courts on February 4.

Groupon is also taking Scoopon to court in its home state of Illinois, claiming federal trademark infringement, unfair competition and deceptive trade practices, even though Scoopon’s business is limited to Australian shores.

Do a deal a day websites offer discounts from local retailers, merchants and leisure operators, thereby restricting their operations to local businesses and consumers.

A Groupon spokeswoman, Julie Mossler, said: “The [Stardeals] site is live to accept subscribers but we are not yet offering deals currently. We hope to do so in the next month.”

An intellectual property lawyer, Trevor Choy, said Groupon was paying the price for failing to register its trademark or name as it expanded globally. The US case was doomed to fail, he said. “Groupon’s lawyers should have known that US trademarks can’t be enforced outside of the US against a company not doing business there.”

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Click here to find out more!

Newspaper in Norway says

it has all WikiLeaks data

December 24, 2010

A Norwegian newspaper says it has obtained the entire trove of 250,000 uncensored US diplomatic documents that WikiLeaks has been distributing.

The announcement appears to make Aftenposten the first media organisation outside WikiLeaks’ five partners to obtain the material – a development sure to heighten US government fears that the public release of some uncensored diplomatic cables could endanger informants’ lives. 

So far WikiLeaks has released about 1,900 of the more than 250,000 State Department documents it claims to possess, many of them containing critical or embarrassing US assessments of foreign nations and their leaders. The documents are also being published by The New York Times, France’s Le Monde, Britain’s Guardian newspaper and the German magazine Der Spiegel.

Managing editor Ole Erik Almlid said Aftenposten has no restrictions on how to use the material, and will be publishing articles about the US documents that it finds relevant in its online and paper editions.

Aftenposten will also post parts of some of the original documents on its website, redacting sensitive information such as names if needed, Almlid told The Associated Press.

“We have received these documents … without restrictions and without paying anything for it,” Almlid said, declining to say exactly how the paper obtained the material. “We never reveal our sources.”

Earlier this year, WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of classified US military documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has not been charged in connection with leaked documents but was jailed in England this month after two women in Sweden accused him of sex crimes, including rape. He was freed on bail last week and is confined to a supporter’s country estate in Britain while he fights extradition to Sweden, where authorities want to question him in the sex crimes inquiry.

It is not known who sent the US documents to WikiLeaks.

A US solider, Pfc. Bradley Manning, was charged in July with leaking classified material, including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. Manning is now in a Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va.

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

IS CHEATING IN GAMES OK?

A new meaning to keeping your eye on the ball

USE YOUR PHONE TO CONTROL THE BALL

Entrepreneur’s Edge: Orbotix (1:58)

Reuters Small Business presents expansion pitches from upstarts across the country. Robotic gaming startup Orbotix has developed technology that lets people control a ball with their smartphone. Here’s the pitch:

Video

Entrepreneur’s Edge: Orbotix (01:58)
Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Have come across this presentation of what is about to happen to the US dollar

The info is startling to say the least but worthy of paying attention to.

View the presentation and make up your own mind

this presentation

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

More to come, vows defiant Assange

Tom Wald, London

December 18, 2010

WikiLeaks’ Assange free on bail

London’s High Court upholds bail for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, freeing him to direct WikiLeaks’ operations from a mansion in England.

WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange, now under ”mansion arrest” at a stately home in the British countryside, says his time in a south London jail has only made him more determined to continue his secret-spilling work.

”It has not altered my position; in fact, it has confirmed my position to me personally that we are on the right path. It has given me enough anger about the situation to last me 100 years.”

His strong rhetoric came just moments before he entered the plush Ellingham Hall after being granted conditional bail at the High Court in London on Thursday.

Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations made by two women but said his main fear was being handed over to US authorities.

The 39-year-old Australian has become a hate figure in Washington over his website’s release of thousands of secret US diplomatic cables containing embarrassing revelations.

”I do not have too many fears about being extradited to Sweden,” he said.

”I have much bigger concerns about being extradited to the United States.

”We had a rumour today from my lawyer in the United States that there has been an indictment made against me in the United States. I have not had that confirmed.”

Looking tired after being locked up for 23½ hours a day at Wandsworth Prison for the past week and a half, he said the US administration’s attempts to bring down him and his website were out of line.

”I think it is clear it is not a path that is acceptable to the world community,” he said. ”Certainly not acceptable to the people of Australia or the people of Great Britain and to a large degree, not acceptable to the people of Sweden as well, although the administrators are a different matter.”

After being shut off from the world in jail, Assange was informed he had a ”good internet connection” to work with at the 10-bedroom residence owned by independent journalism campaigner and supporter Vaughan Smith.

”We have seen in my week away my team is robust and we continue to publish in a successful manner … that is not to underestimate the risks associated to all of us,” Assange said.

While at the mansion, he must observe a curfew and be tagged.

He will have to report daily to a police station, and £200,000 ($A315,000) in security, raised by his supporters, has been paid into the court.

Earlier Mr Justice Ouseley of the High Court warned Assange that he was almost certain to be extradited to Sweden to face sex assault allegations.

The court refused an attempt by the Crown Prosecution Service to stop Assange being freed but imposed tougher bail conditions than previously outlined by a lower court.

His release was delayed for four hours because of confusion over the payment of sureties as a who’s who of freedom of speech campaigners – including Nobel prize winners, British peers, former ministers, journalist Phillip Knightley and millionaire publisher Felix Dennis – visited police stations and magistrates courts to pay their cash but encountered officers ignorant of procedure.

There is a growing consensus among US constitutional lawyers and other legal experts that Assange will be indicted by Washington.

After his release he said that even if he were indicted in the US, the spilling of state secrets would continue.

AAP, GUARDIAN, with PAOLA TOTARO

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha


Has WikiLeaks

landed in cyberattack crosshairs?

Forget China or Al Qaeda. In a twist that would have been inconceivable even a few months ago, the WikiLeaks.org Web site is being proposed as the first public target for a U.S. government cyberattack.

After the shadowy, document-leaking organization distributed nearly 400,000 classified documents from the Iraq war on Friday, Washington officialdom responded with a torrent of denunciations alleging violations of national security and endangering U.S. military operations.

WikiLeaks

In a rare point of congruence, The Washington Post and The Washington Times both criticized the release, with the smaller paper arguing that WikiLeaks’ offshore Web site should be attacked and rendered “inoperable” by the U.S. government. Some hawkish conservatives followed suit, including Christian Whiton, a State Department adviser under President George W. Bush, who wrote a column calling on the U.S. military to “electronically assault WikiLeaks and any telecommunications company offering its services to this organization.”

Their target’s actually not that far away. WikiLeaks’ Web site is now hosted on Amazon.com servers on United States soil near San Jose, Calif.

The tech-savvy activists are taking advantages of the popular Amazon Web Services platform, described as offering “massive compute capacity and storage” that is automatically ramped up as more and more people connect to a Web site–a perfect fit for a group that had anticipated a deluge of traffic.

To be precise, the WikiLeaks.org domain name has been configured to point to three different Internet Protocol (IP) addresses: Amazon in the United States, Amazon in Ireland, and an address owned by Octopuce in France. Octopuce provides hosting for free-software enthusiasts and France’s Big Brother Awards. (Netcraft’s toolbar explains the situation well.)

An Amazon spokeswoman contacted yesterday morning did not respond to multiple inquiries. A Pentagon representative said yesterday he had no immediate response, and Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said only: “We continue to assist the Defense Department in its investigation into the leak of classified information to WikiLeaks.”

To be sure, calls for the forcible muzzling of WikiLeaks also happened in July, when WikiLeaks posted secret military dispatches from the Afghanistan war. Conservative commentator Liz Cheney, for instance, said: “I would really like to see President Obama move to ask the government of Iceland to shut that Web site down. I’d like to see him move to shut it down ourselves if Iceland won’t do it.” At the time, WikiLeaks.org was hosted on a server in Sweden.

After the release of the Iraq files, though, the suggestions for an electronic offensive against the organization and its public face, Julian Assange, have become more pointed.

‘Waging war on WikiLeaks’
The Washington Times said in an editorial that WikiLeaks is now a “threat to U.S. national security” and “should be treated accordingly.” The U.S. government “should be waging war on the WikiLeaks Web presence,” it advised.

“The WikiLeaks folks seem to have done a good job of distributing and encrypting their data, so cyberattacks would be pointless. They’d have no effect. We’d have better luck making fun of the WikiLeaks messiah, who seems a bit strange.”

–James Lewis, senior fellow, Center for Strategic and International Studies

Marc Thiessen, a President George W. Bush speechwriter and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, suggested that: “Because Assange is a non-U.S. citizen operating outside the territory of the United States, the government could employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets–such as U.S. Cyber Command–to put his criminal syndicate out of business and bring Assange to justice.”

James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that a cyberattack against WikiLeaks would be futile and that Assange personally would be a better target.

“The WikiLeaks folks seem to have done a good job of distributing and encrypting their data, so cyberattacks would be pointless,” Lewis told CNET yesterday. “They’d have no effect. We’d have better luck making fun of the WikiLeaks messiah, who seems a bit strange.”

And in fact, WikiLeaks does have a series of mirror sites ready to go, including WikiLeaks.fr (hosted by famously pro-free speech registrar Gandi.net), and WikiLeaks.se, WikiLeaks.de, WikiLeaks.nl, and WikiLeaks.is (all currently hosted in Sweden, though this could be easily changed).

If the U.S. government does begin an electronic attack on WikiLeaks, the military’s new Cyber Command would be one candidate to undertake it. The new organization is charged with allowing the U.S. armed forces to conduct “full-spectrum military cyberspace operations in order to enable actions in all domains,” which includes destroying electronic infrastructure as thoroughly as a B-2 bomber would level a power plant.

So far, the United States government has been cagey, even reticent, about publicly discussing its offensive capabilities.

Two years ago, President Bush signed the secret National Security Presidential Directive 54, which was later revealed to include “offensive” elements. Earlier this year, when a congressional committee asked Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, now the head of the NSA and Cyber Command, about the possibility of conducting “tactical” and “operational” offensive operations, he said (PDF) he could answer that question only in a classified setting.

A National Research Council report on the technology, law, and ethics of cyberattack said that “today’s policy and legal framework for guiding and regulating the U.S. use of cyberattack is ill-formed, undeveloped, and highly uncertain.” It also suggested that the United States’ highly classified cyberattack capabilities are “likely more powerful” than “those demonstrated by the most sophisticated cyberattacks perpetrated by cybercriminals.”

In August, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell left open the possibility of offensive action against WikiLeaks. “If it requires compelling them to do anything, then we will figure out what other alternatives we have to compel them to do the right thing,” he said. (The Obama administration has reportedly concluded that WikiLeaks violated U.S. law even before the Iraq leak.)

And this week, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a note out through Twitter saying: “Another irresponsible posting of stolen classified documents by WikiLeaks puts lives at risk and gives adversaries valuable information.”

Questions about diplomatic concerns and international law aside, the problem of successfully attacking a Web site in another country is not a trivial one to solve. It’s reasonable to assume that the U.S. military has been able to find undocumented backdoors in popular operating systems and Web servers (schools like the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., have classified computer labs that appear to work on precisely those topics).

But would the Pentagon want to risk exposing those abilities to shutter WikiLeaks temporarily, only to have the same files be mirrored moments later on BitTorrent and innumerable other Web sites?

That seems unlikely. After all, as Brig. Gen. Joseph Osterman, commander of the First Marine Division, said yesterday in a teleconference from Afghanistan: “As far as the WikiLeaks, that really has had no impact at all on us.”

Update 3 p.m. PDT: Wikileaks.org appears to have ceased hosting documents inside the United States. Its DNS entry no longer points to Amazon.com servers in San Jose (it continues to point to Amazon Ireland and the French hosting service). Yesterday’s 204.236.131.131 IP address has been removed. It’s unclear why WikiLeaks has made this change–it may be as a result of this article–but now the DNS entries for Warlogs.wikileaks.org and Wikileaks.org are the same

Sourced & published by Henry Sapiecha

Anger at ‘slave trader’ Assange:

WikiLeaks loyalists decide to break away

Asher Moses

December 10, 2010 – 11:02AM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his former right-hand man, Daniel Domschelt-Berg aka. Daniel Schmitt.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his former right-hand man, Daniel Domschelt-Berg aka. Daniel Schmitt.

A number of WikiLeaks defectors, including founder Julian Assange’s former right-hand man, plan to launch a rival site on Monday after accusing Mr Assange of behaving like “some kind of emperor or slave trader”.

With WikiLeaks itself vowing to press on with its leaking regardless of the fate of Mr Assange, it seems that any attempts by US politicians to stop the leaks will be futile.

The new site, Openleaks, will launch on Monday, respected Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported. Like WikiLeaks, it will allow whistleblowers to leak information to the public anonymously. However, Openleaks won’t host the documents itself, instead acting as an intermediary between whistleblowers and other groups including media organisations.

Several WikiLeaks members abandoned the site following perceived autocratic behaviour by Mr Assange. They said he failed to consult them on many decisions and put himself front and centre of everything WikiLeaks did.

Some members were also concerned that the Swedish rape allegations against Mr Assange were damaging the organisation’s reputation. Dagens Nyheter reported that insiders were sabotaging the site earlier this year in order to convince Mr Assange to step down.

The new site, one member said, would be “democratically governed by all its members, rather than limited to one group or individual”.

“We broke from WikiLeaks because a few ex-WikiLeaks members have been very unhappy with the way Assange was conducting things,” said former WikiLeaks member and key player in the new site, Herbert Snorrason.

‘You’re not anyone’s king or god’

The most high-profile defector is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who went by the name Daniel Schmitt at WikiLeaks and served as one of its only public faces aside from Mr Assange.

Mr Domscheit-Berg resigned from the organisation this year after WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 classified US documents relating to the Iraq war. He, and other WikiLeaks members, felt Mr Assange released the documents too early without taking the time to properly redact names of US collaborators and informants in Iraq.

“You are not anyone’s king or god,” Mr Domscheit-Berg told Mr Assange in an online chat, a transcript of which was obtained and published by Wired.com.

“And you’re not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.”

Mr Assange shot back, saying he was suspending Mr Domscheit-Berg for a month and that if he wanted to appeal, “you will be heard on Tuesday”.

Mr Domschelt-Berg instead resigned and will now be a key player in the new site.

Got a problem? Piss off

Mr Snorrason also left after he challenged Mr Assange’s decision to suspend Mr Domscheit-Berg. Mr Assange responded saying: “I am the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.”

Mr Domscheit-Berg is writing a tell-all book on his three years at WikiLeaks, titled Inside WikiLeaks: My Time at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel Mr Domscheit-Berg criticised WikiLeaks for focusing too much on the US and said the new site would have a far broader focus.

Ben Laurie, a data security expert who advised WikiLeaks before it launched in 2006, said the site had opened a Pandora’s box of leaking and, even if it was taken out, the idea would live on.

“The concept is not going to die. It’s really hard to keep things shut down if they want to stay up,” he said.

“Look at everything else people would like not to happen online – phishing, spam, porn. It’s all still there.”

World leaders support Assange

Meanwhile, Mr Assange remains remanded in custody in Britain pending proceedings to extradite him to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.

Revelations embarrassing to governments all over the world, divined from the hundreds of thousands of US State Department cables leaked by Mr Assange, continue to be published by media organisations.

Vladimir Putin has led a growing band of international leaders voicing support for Mr Assange, describing his detention in Britain as “undemocratic”.

The Russian Prime Minister’s broadside came as hackers escalated their cyber war on opponents of the whistleblower website, setting their sights on Amazon.com.

The move appeared to be part of a developing tit-for-tat cyber conflict targeting companies in reprisal for withdrawing from doing business with WikiLeaks. Amazon last week booted WikiLeaks off its servers, saying the company had violated its terms of service.

Visa, Mastercard and PayPal earlier suffered disruption to their websites in retaliation for their decision to stop accepting payments for the whistleblower.

Dutch police have arrested a 16-year-old who they say admitted to staging attacks on the Visa and Mastercard sites.

Sourced & publishd by Henry Sapiecha

Anger at ‘slave trader’ Assange:

WikiLeaks loyalists decide to break away

Asher Moses

December 10, 2010 – 11:02AM

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his former right-hand man, Daniel Domschelt-Berg aka. Daniel Schmitt.WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and his former right-hand man, Daniel Domschelt-Berg aka. Daniel Schmitt.

A number of WikiLeaks defectors, including founder Julian Assange’s former right-hand man, plan to launch a rival site on Monday after accusing Mr Assange of behaving like “some kind of emperor or slave trader”.

With WikiLeaks itself vowing to press on with its leaking regardless of the fate of Mr Assange, it seems that any attempts by US politicians to stop the leaks will be futile.

The new site, Openleaks, will launch on Monday, respected Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter reported. Like WikiLeaks, it will allow whistleblowers to leak information to the public anonymously. However, Openleaks won’t host the documents itself, instead acting as an intermediary between whistleblowers and other groups including media organisations.

Several WikiLeaks members abandoned the site following perceived autocratic behaviour by Mr Assange. They said he failed to consult them on many decisions and put himself front and centre of everything WikiLeaks did.

Some members were also concerned that the Swedish rape allegations against Mr Assange were damaging the organisation’s reputation. Dagens Nyheter reported that insiders were sabotaging the site earlier this year in order to convince Mr Assange to step down.

The new site, one member said, would be “democratically governed by all its members, rather than limited to one group or individual”.

“We broke from WikiLeaks because a few ex-WikiLeaks members have been very unhappy with the way Assange was conducting things,” said former WikiLeaks member and key player in the new site, Herbert Snorrason.

‘You’re not anyone’s king or god’

The most high-profile defector is Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who went by the name Daniel Schmitt at WikiLeaks and served as one of its only public faces aside from Mr Assange.

Mr Domscheit-Berg resigned from the organisation this year after WikiLeaks released almost 400,000 classified US documents relating to the Iraq war. He, and other WikiLeaks members, felt Mr Assange released the documents too early without taking the time to properly redact names of US collaborators and informants in Iraq.

“You are not anyone’s king or god,” Mr Domscheit-Berg told Mr Assange in an online chat, a transcript of which was obtained and published by Wired.com.

“And you’re not even fulfilling your role as a leader right now. A leader communicates and cultivates trust in himself. You are doing the exact opposite. You behave like some kind of emperor or slave trader.”

Mr Assange shot back, saying he was suspending Mr Domscheit-Berg for a month and that if he wanted to appeal, “you will be heard on Tuesday”.

Mr Domschelt-Berg instead resigned and will now be a key player in the new site.

Got a problem? Piss off

Mr Snorrason also left after he challenged Mr Assange’s decision to suspend Mr Domscheit-Berg. Mr Assange responded saying: “I am the heart and soul of this organisation, its founder, philosopher, spokesperson, original coder, organiser, financier and all the rest. If you have a problem with me, piss off.”

Mr Domscheit-Berg is writing a tell-all book on his three years at WikiLeaks, titled Inside WikiLeaks: My Time at the World’s Most Dangerous Website.

In an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel Mr Domscheit-Berg criticised WikiLeaks for focusing too much on the US and said the new site would have a far broader focus.

Ben Laurie, a data security expert who advised WikiLeaks before it launched in 2006, said the site had opened a Pandora’s box of leaking and, even if it was taken out, the idea would live on.

“The concept is not going to die. It’s really hard to keep things shut down if they want to stay up,” he said.

“Look at everything else people would like not to happen online – phishing, spam, porn. It’s all still there.”

World leaders support Assange

Meanwhile, Mr Assange remains remanded in custody in Britain pending proceedings to extradite him to Sweden to face sex crime allegations.

Revelations embarrassing to governments all over the world, divined from the hundreds of thousands of US State Department cables leaked by Mr Assange, continue to be published by media organisations.

Vladimir Putin has led a growing band of international leaders voicing support for Mr Assange, describing his detention in Britain as “undemocratic”.

The Russian Prime Minister’s broadside came as hackers escalated their cyber war on opponents of the whistleblower website, setting their sights on Amazon.com.

The move appeared to be part of a developing tit-for-tat cyber conflict targeting companies in reprisal for withdrawing from doing business with WikiLeaks. Amazon last week booted WikiLeaks off its servers, saying the company had violated its terms of service.

Visa, Mastercard and PayPal earlier suffered disruption to their websites in retaliation for their decision to stop accepting payments for the whistleblower.

Dutch police have arrested a 16-year-old who they say admitted to staging attacks on the Visa and Mastercard sites.

Sourced & publishd by Henry Sapiecha

Assange supporters bring down

Visa, MasterCard sites

December 9, 2010 – 8:31AM

A group of WikiLeaks supporters is claiming to have crashed credit card giant Visa’s website, hours after a similar attack on MasterCard.

The group, which calls itself Anonymous, claimed responsibility on a Twitter feed and elsewhere.

The two-pronged attack came as both companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks on Tuesday.

Access to both sites was intermittent this morning.

Do you know more? email us


Chatter on the 4chan.org bulletin board, a site frequented by Anonymous posters, suggested that online payment service PayPal might be the next target, or the New York Stock Exchange, or Twitter, which suspended the account used for the Anonymous operations. PayPal also suspended WikiLeaks’s accounts used to collect donations.

Visa acknowledged the cyber attack on its website and reassured cardholders that no customer data had been put at risk.

“Visa’s corporate website – Visa.com – is currently experiencing heavier than normal traffic,” said the company in a statement. “The company is taking steps to restore the site to full operations within the next few hours.”

Visa said its processing network that handled cardholder transactions was functioning normally.

“Cardholders can continue to use their cards as they routinely would,” Visa said. “Account data is not at risk.”

Earlier, the Swedish prosecutor’s office came under cyber attack as WikiLeaks supporters vowed to retaliate for the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The Swedish prosecution authority, whose arrest order for Mr Assange over accusations of sexual offences led a British court to remand the 39-year-old in custody, said it had reported the online attack to police.

“Of course, it’s easy to think it has a connection with WikiLeaks but we can’t confirm that,” prosecution authority web editor Fredrik Berg told Reuters Television.

Assange supporters also went for the corporate website of credit card firm MasterCard in apparent retaliation for its blocking of donations to the WikiLeaks website.

“We are glad to tell you that http://www.mastercard.com/ is down and it’s confirmed!” said an entry on the ‘AnonOps’ Twitter feed of Anonymous, which says it fights against censorship and “copywrong”.

Mark Stephens, Mr Assange’s principal lawyer in London, denied that the WikiLeaks founder had ordered the cyber strikes. Mr Assange “did not give instructions to hack” the company websites, Stephens told Reuters.

‘Concentrated effort’

MasterCard said its systems had not been compromised by what it called “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate web site with traffic and slow access”.

“We are working to restore normal service levels,” the company said in a statement. “It is important to note that our systems have not been compromised and there is no impact on our cardholders’ ability to use their cards for secure transactions globally.”

Mr Assange spent the night in a British jail and will appear for a hearing on December 14.

Mr Assange, who has lived periodically in Sweden, was accused this year of sexual misconduct by two female Swedish WikiLeaks volunteers. The pair’s lawyer said their claims were not a politically motivated plot against Mr Assange.

“It has nothing to do with WikiLeaks or the CIA,” said lawyer Claes Borgstrom, whose website also came under cyber attack, according to officials.

Mr Assange has angered US authorities and triggered headlines worldwide by publishing the secret cables.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the people who originally leaked the documents, not Mr Assange, were legally liable and the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of US security.

“Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorised release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network,” Rudd told Reuters in an interview.

“The Americans are responsible for that,” said Rudd, described in one leaked US cable as a “control freak”.

US State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley conceded that “the fundamental responsibility for the leak rests inside the US government where we believe a crime has been committed”.

“But just as clearly, what Julian Assange is doing by releasing these classified documents is putting real lives and real interests at risk,” Crowley said in an e-mail message.

Carry on

WikiLeaks vowed it would continue making public details of the confidential US cables. Only a fraction of them have been published so far.

Mr Assange has become the public face of WikiLeaks, hailed by supporters including campaigning Australian journalist John Pilger and British film maker Ken Loach as a defender of free speech, but he is now battling to clear his name.

Some supporters appear to want to help him. While most denial of service attacks involve botnets, programs that hijack computers and use them to target individual websites and bring them down, the current cyber attacks seem to be different.

“In this case… they seem to be using their own computers,” he said. Asked what that said about how many individuals might be involved: “Probably hundreds at the least, could be thousands,” said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of Finnish software security firm F-Secure.

PayPal said it had acted at the behest of the US government.

“On November 27th, the State Department, the US government basically, wrote a letter saying that the WikiLeaks activities were deemed illegal in the United States and as a result our policy group had to make the decision of suspending the account,” Osama Bedier, PayPal’s vice president of platform and emerging technology, told a conference in Paris.

Swiss PostFinance, the banking arm of state-owned Swiss Post, which also closed a WikiLeaks donation account, said it had taken countermeasures and an earlier wave of cyber attacks appeared to be waning.

“The community around Julian Assange have said ‘we’re leaving it now, we’ve shown what we can do,'” PostFinance spokesman Alex Josty said.

New revelations continue

The latest cables, reported in Britain’s Guardian newspaper, said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made threats to cut trade with Britain and warned of “enormous repercussions” if the Libyan convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing died in a Scottish jail. He was freed in August 2009.

WikiLeaks also released cables on Wednesday that showed Saudi Arabia proposed an “Arab army” be deployed in Lebanon, with US air and naval cover, to stop Shi’ite Hezbollah militia after it seized control of parts of Beirut in 2008.

Like many of the cables, the disclosures give an insight into diplomacy which is normally screened from public view.

The original source of the leaked cables is not known, though a US army private, Bradley Manning, who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorized downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables.

US officials have declined to say whether those cables are the same ones now being released by WikiLeaks.

Reuters with AP and Chris Zappone, BusinessDay

Received & published by Henry Sapiecha

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