The WikiLeaks website yesterday said that it was under a forceful internet-based attack with the site inaccessible to users in U.S. and Europe.
The site, which just distributed a trove of U.S. diplomatic documents, said in a Twitter message on that it is under a ‘distributed denial of service attack,’ a method commonly used by hackers to slow down or bring down sites.
WikiLeaks was also under attack on Sunday – but the latest assault – believed to come from China – appears to be more powerful.
WikiLeaks said the malicious traffic was coming in at 10 gigabits per second, which would make it a relatively large effort.
The WikiLeaks site is hosted in Sweden and devoted to releasing anonymously submitted documents.
Roger Rawlinson, managing director of Assurance Division at NCC Group plc, comments on the denial of service attack that has crashed the WikiLeaks website in the US and Europe: “The website has obviously drawn a huge amount of attention over the last few days and therefore, as with any other extremely visible site, has become a target for this type of attack. However, this has the added dimension of being highly political and will therefore raise emotions of both its supporters and detractors, increasing it as a likely prime target.
“In this case, powerful individuals and organisations are keen to see WikiLeaks’ activities stopped. With malicious traffic reportedly coming into the site at 10 gigbits per second, this incident points to a more coordinated, professional operation, rather than a lone hacker.
“However, as with all information posted on the internet, it is out there for all to see and once the information is on the Internet, it is out there, forever. Therefore any attempt to stop the leaks at this point may be counter productive. It stresses the need to review the governance, procedure and controls to prevent the leaks in the first place, before they are even disclosed.
“It also serves to highlight how vulnerable sites are to these forms of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, which can be very difficult to combat effectively. While the timing of the attack is obviously not coincidental, given that WikiLeaks protects against this form of attack through allowing open distribution and replication of its material, effectively making it impossible to prevent, it is hard to speculate exactly what the purpose behind the attack was.”