Wikileaks hit with denial of service attack after releasing government cables

Whistle-blowing site Wikileaks, which has attracted worldwide attention and scathing condemnations from public officials in dozens of countries for releasing confidential messages sent between government agencies, has been struck by a denial of service attack.

But the site is still operational, having moved its hosting to Amazon-based servers. The website claims it is still working, but said various news sources would continue to publish the leaked cables in case the site goes down again.

Wikileaks, which was founded by Australian-born Julian Assange, issued a statement via Twitter yesterday saying the site had been hit by a “mass distributed denial of service attack”. This type of attack occurs when a user, or multiple users, spam a site with so much traffic that it cannot be sustained and it goes offline.

A hacker named Jester, or “th3j35t34”, has taken responsibility for the attack, describing himself as a “hacktivist”. Writing on his Twitter feed, the individual said “TANGO DOWN – for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations”.

Security analysts have pointed out that the attack used may not have been a distributed denial of service attack, but rather a different type of attack. Several also question whether the attack could have been distributed by only one person.

But Wikileaks has managed to stay alive, by creating a sub-site called “cabelgate.wikileaks.org”. The site says that on this sub site, users are able to view a selection of the 251,287 documents, which include over 15,000 secret cables dated from 1966 to February 2010, containing “confidential communications between 274 embassies in countries throughout the world and the State Department in Washington, D.C.”

But in a taunt towards US authorities, who have condemned the release of the cables and have actually ordered WikiLeaks to cease releasing any information, the site now hosts its data on Amazon technology.

While the US Government could move to have the data removed as it now lies within American jurisdiction, it is understood Wikileaks could still use its main servers hosted in Sweden.

Meanwhile, attorney-general Robert McClelland has said the Australian Federal Police will begin investigating whether Julian Assange has broken any laws by revealing the documents. Assange is wanted for questioning in the United States; he takes refuge in Sweden where laws are much more lenient.

“We think there are potentially a number of criminal laws that could have been breached by the release of this information,” McClelland said. Foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd also said he is concerned about the release of the documents.

“The fact is that nation states converse with other nation states through the medium of private diplomacy,” Rudd said. “They want to achieve outcomes which cannot be transacted in the public domain. That’s why there are longstanding conventions about the protection of diplomatic documents.”

Of the thousands of documents set to be released, only 1,442 relate to Australia. The most prominent of the cables released so far was published by the New York Times, which said that Australians who had gone missing in the Middle East were added to US terror watch lists.

WikiLeaks says more cables will be released over the next few months.

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