Operation Payback have come up with a new way to annoy corporations that have severed their ties with WikiLeaks: bombard them with faxes. As part of its new Leakflood mission, the Anonymous group of 'hacktivists' is encouraging its members to send a large number of faxes to Amazon, MasterCard, Moneybookers, PayPal, Visa and Tableau Software.
In online chats, group members have posted the fax numbers for about a half-dozen corporations and are calling volunteers to fill up the fax machines, using free online fax services such as MyFax.com and FaxZero.com. They're recommending that people use anonymizing software such as the Tor Project to access these sites, so that they cannot be traced by authorities.
This latest campaign by the Anonymous group is analogous to the distributed denial of service attacks it has been carrying out against websites over the past week. In essence, this has turned into a DDoS attack against fax machines. The group started the fax-attacks today at 13:00 GMT and published a list of target fax numbers in their call to arms:
"The enemy is adapting to our strategies, Gentlemen, but they are a lumbering bureaucracy. We can change faster," the group said in a note being circulated on its chat servers Monday.
The activists are being encouraged to send faxes of random WikiLeaks cables, letters from Anonymous, Guy Fawkes, and the WikiLeaks logo to the target fax numbers all day long. It is not clear how many people are taking part in the attacks, but an IRC channel set up to provide information about the campaign contained 73 users just a few hours after the fax-attacks started.
The loosely organized group behind Operation Payback, called Anonymous, has tried this tactic before. In January 2008 it encouraged members to fax-bomb the Church of Scientology, another of its favorite targets.
Although Operation Payback's attacks have gained a lot of media attention, they have had little effect on their targets' core businesses. MasterCard said that some of its SecureCode transaction processing was slowed down last week, but the back-end transaction systems used by Visa and MasterCard have been unaffected by the attacks. Paypal's Paypal.com website went down on Thursday, but the company said that the servers it uses to process transactions were virtually unaffected.
The attacks aren't difficult to thwart, but they do cost money as companies have to scramble and harden their infrastructure. In the meantime, they make it hard for customers to reach the company. Those websites are usually the first port of call for anyone who wants to use those online services.
The fax attacks look like they could be an annoyance, and they appear to be having some effect. Anonymous has posted a list of numbers that it says are no longer responsive.
As well as dishing out attacks, the group has also found itself under attack for supporting WikiLeaks. Many users were knocked off its IRC network after its servers came under attack this morning. It is also understood that the anonops.eu domain (which used to announce the locations of IRC servers and the current attack target) has also come under attack and is currently unavailable.
Real-time performance graphs for websites that have been involved (or may become involved) in the WikiLeaks attacks can be monitored at http://uptime.netcraft.com/perf/reports/performance/wikileaks; however, Netcraft is not monitoring any of the fax machines.