Supporters of Wikileaks apparently mounted major denial of service attacks against the corporate websites of Visa and MasterCard in retaliation for the payment services’ discontinuation of accepting payments for Wikileaks donations. Visa’s corporate website was down temporarily, but was later restored, while at MasterCard:
MasterCard, calling the attack “a concentrated effort to flood our corporate website with traffic and slow access,” said all its services had been restored and that account data was not at risk.
But it said the attack, mounted by hackers using simple tools posted on the Web, had extended beyond its website to payment processing technology, leaving some customers unable to make online payments using MasterCard software.
The big issue of course that the attacks raised was of course the security of the payments networks themselves:
For Visa and MasterCard, the world’s two largest credit and debit card processors, the attacks raised questions about the vulnerability of core operations — and consumers’ ability to use credit, debit and online payments instead of cash.
Nevertheless, investors in both companies largely reacted with a shrug. Shares of both companies closed up over 1 percent, although Visa slipped slightly in after-hours trading.
The plot thickened, so to speak, with the release of a cable about Visa and MasterCard and their Russian market entry concerns from Wikileaks itself:
from 1 February, entitled ‘Russian draft bill would require on-shore credit card processing’, outlines concerns on the planned law for a Russian National Payments System.
The draft law would have seen the creation of a national payment card system (NPCS), operated by a consortium of state-owned banks, processing payments for all members, collecting an estimated $4 billion a year in fees.
According to the cable, Visa’s public relations head in Russia, Dmitriy Vishnyakov, told the US that Russia’s plan follows the “China model” on payment card systems.
The cable concludes: “While the draft legislation has yet to be submitted to the Duma and can still be amended, post will continue to raise our concerns with senior GOR officials. We recommend that senior USG officials also take advantage of meetings with their Russian counterparts, including through the Bilateral Presidential Commission, to press the GOR to change the draft text to ensure U.S. payment companies are not adversely affected.”
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