By Gautham Nagesh - 12/08/10 10:10 PM EST
A group of hackers launched a series of cyber-attacks on Wednesday aimed at companies such as MasterCard, Amazon.com and PayPal, which have recently cut commercial services to WikiLeaks.
Also targeted in the attacks is the lawyer representing the two Swedish women who have accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of sexual assault; Assange surrendered to police in London on Tuesday and is awaiting a Dec. 14 court appearance. He has denied any wrongdoing.
A group of hackers known as Anonymous claimed responsibility for shutting down MasterCard's website via denial of service attacks. The hackers are motivated by their belief that Assange is being persecuted as part of an international plot to stop WikiLeaks. MasterCard denied that any credit card transactions were compromised.
Additionally, an account dubbed "Operation Payback" tweeted that Visa would be the next to be attacked; the company's site appeared to be down at the time of this posting.
U.S. authorities pressured PayPal and Amazon.com to cut off services to WikiLeaks, arguing the site was breaking the law by publishing classified diplomatic cables in recent weeks. The actions have prompted an online backlash and accusations of censorship, though the public appears to be moving away from Assange in light of the allegations in Sweden.