Suspected members of the loose-knit group of “hacktivists” known as Anonymous have been arrested in the U.K., according to this Guardian report. Earlier Thursday, police arrested five people from across the U.K. in connection with a spate of online attacks last month in support of WikiLeaks, known as the whistleblowers’ site.
According to police, the five males, aged between 15 and 26, are being held after a series of arrests in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Herfordshire, Surrey and London. A series of coordinated raids were conducted to identify and capture the men. All five are being held in custody at local police stations.
These men became targets after they allegedly crippled the websites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal in retaliation. These companies had cut off financial services to WikiLeaks and the attacks followed the release of U.S. diplomatic cables from late November.
"They are part of an ongoing [Metropolitan police] investigation into Anonymous which began last year following criminal allegations of DDoS attacks by the group against several companies," Scotland Yard said in the Guardian. "This investigation is being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US."
The group’s attacks, described as “distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, enable them to bring down sites by bombarding them with repeated requests to load Web pages. These attacks are illegal in the U.K. under the Computer Misuse Act.
WikiLeaks started receiving support from Anonymous after Amazon and other companies terminated business links with the site. This group is 1,000 strong and activists within the group launched what they referred to as Operation Payback, vowing to give perceived anti-WikiLeaks firms a “black eye.”
The group’s attention more recently has been placed on supporting the political uprising in Tunisia and Egypt. Anonymous has been credited with temporarily disabling access to 10 Tunisian government websites and four Egyptian government sites.
According to reports from Anonymous, the cyber attacks are in retaliation for the government censorship in both countries. They suggest that Facebook, Twitter and other information-sharing sites have been blocked by government authorities. Facebook later claimed no change in traffic on their site there.
Earlier this month, Ireland’s main opposition party’s website was also hacked and Anonymous claimed responsibility for the attack which compromised up to 2,000 people’s personal details.
Authorities throughout Europe have already signaled an intention to identify those behind the attacks and report that the majority are traceable by their Internet protocol (IP) addresses that connect each device to the Internet.
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TechZone360 Contributing Editor
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