Hacking arrests continue to rise as 16 people now faces charges after their arrests in the United States in connection with cyber attacks by the Anonymous group, the U.S. Department of Justice said. In addition, police arrested one person in the U.K. and four in the Netherlands.
An indictment filed last week in San Jose, Calif., names 14 people accused of conspiring to intentionally damage protected computers at PayPal last December in retribution for PayPal suspending WikiLeaks’ account to prevent supporters from donating to the whistleblower site. The arrests occurred in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, and Ohio, the Justice Department said. The defendants will make initial appearances in federal courts in their areas.
In two separate indictments, a Sarasota, Fla., police busted a man on charges of intentionally damaging a protected computer for accessing the Web site of InfraGard Tampa Bay, an FBI partner, in June. The complaint said he released instructions on how to exploit the Web site.
Another man faces charges in Las Cruces, N.M., for stealing confidential business information from AT&T servers and posting it publicly in April, police said. The defendant, who works as a customer support contractor for AT&T at outsource provider Convergys, faces charges of accessing a protected computer without authorization for downloading thousands of documents, applications, and other files and then posting them on the Internet, the indictment says. The LulzSec hacking group publicized the release of those documents June 25, according to the filing.
The arrests of the defendants, who range in age from 20 to 42, followed the execution of more than 35 search warrants throughout the country by the FBI as part of its investigation into hacking attacks coordinated by the Anonymous online activist group, officials said. More than 75 searches took place in the U.S. to date as part of the investigations, the Justice Department said.
The charge of intentional damage to a protected computer carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine; each count of conspiracy carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, the Justice Department said.
Meanwhile, in London police arrested a 16-year-old, who goes by the hacker handle “Tflow” and police believe he is a key member of LulzSec.
Dutch prosecutors said the four suspects in the Netherlands belonged to a splinter group called AntiSec NL, which they said hacked the sites of dating service Pepper.nl and communications software maker Nimbuzz, among others, and boasted about it on a now-defunct Twitter account.
The four are males aged 17, 18, 25 and 35, each from a different Dutch city, and operating under the nicknames Ziaolin, Calimero, DutchD3V1L and Time, police said. Police seized their computers and other equipment in raids Tuesday night.
“Their most important purported goal was stealing and making public private data of government services and companies,” the national prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
As part of “Operation Payback,” Anonymous organized a distributed denial-of-service attack that shut down PayPal’s site, as well as that of Visa and MasterCard. PayPal cut WikiLeaks off citing violations of its terms of service after WikiLeaks released a large amount of classified U.S. State Department cables in late November.
Anonymous is targeting computer attacks on government and corporate Web sites, including Monsanto, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the City of Orlando, and Sony, as well as government sites in Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia. Anonymous often issues warnings and statements saying the attacks protest Internet censorship and government corruption or corporate malfeasance.