FBI arrests alleged Anonymous members, but hacks continue

The Justice Department has arrested 16 alleged members of the hacker group Anonymous as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the Pay Pal website hack that occurred earlier this year.

But other members of Anonymous and a revived LulzSec are continuing their activities, claiming credit for hacks of the North American Treaty Organization and Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

"We want to send a message that chaos on the Internet is unacceptable," Steven Chabinsky, deputy assistant FBI director, said in an interview with NPR. "[Even if] hackers can be believed to have social causes, it's entirely unacceptable to break into websites and commit unlawful acts."

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The FBI arrested individuals across the United States — in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey and Ohio. It also searched and seized computer equipment at three New York homes of suspected Anonymous members, Fox News reported

In a DOJ release, the FBI said the arrests were done with the help of the U.K. and Dutch police. U.K. police arrested an individual, which FoxNews reported to be a member of both Anonymous and LulzSec, a spinoff of Anonymous, and Dutch police arrested four suspects.

"The investigative opportunities that present themselves in this area are transnational," Chabinsky told NPR. "The resolution of these cases will involve international cooperation.”

The FBI also issued more than 35 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing investigation regarding coordinated cyberattacks against other companies and organizations. More than 75 searches have taken place in the United States as a result of these attacks, according to the DOJ release.

Despite the arrests, and other recent arrests of alleged hackers, the loosely affiliated groups have continued their activities.

Anonymous tweeted July 21 that it hacked NATO and took about a gigabyte of restricted — fairly low-level — documents. The group released two NATO documents in PDF form, one a memo from 2008 on outsourcing communication and information systems support in the Balkans, the other an unclassified document describing its security procedures, ThreatPost reported.

And LulzSec apparently has used the U.K. phone hacking scandal to come out of retirement, claiming it hacked e-mail accounts of New International, owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, according to a report in The Register.

LulzSec, which has claimed responsibility for website hacks of Sony, Nintendo, PBS, the U.S. Senate, the CIA and several foreign governments, had disbanded in June after police in Great Britain arrested one of its purported members.

LulzSec said it took the e-mails during an attack on the website of The Sun, one of the tabloid newspapers owned by Murdoch involved in a widespread phone-hacking scandal.

Although Anonymous and LulzSec are politically motivated to hack into these sites, such activities could lead to cyberterrorism or criminal activity, said Chabinsky.

"There has not been a large-scale trend toward using hacking to actually destroy websites, [but] that could be appealing to both criminals and terrorists. That's where the 'hacktivism,' even if currently viewed by some as a nuisance, shows the potential to be destabilizing."

Other foreign governments have gone after Anonymous members, too; last month Turkey arrested 32 members following Spain’s arrest of three members.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Jul 22, 2011 Fritz

A knock on their door at midnight and a "double tap" would solve a lot of computer hacking problems

Fri, Jul 22, 2011 TAG

Craking down on cyber crime may be nessesary to clean up the internet, but lets be carful Mr. Chabinsky to not push away US Citizens rights by reclassifing it as terorrism so it falls under the Patriot Act.

Fri, Jul 22, 2011 Walter Washington DC

Something like this will be hard to fight. There could be hundreds of members scattered across the world. They don't all have the same motives and probably don't all work on the same hacks together. For now, they seem to be going after low hanging fruit. Accounts that are associated but not behind any serious firewalls or anything. Denial of service only requires hitting nodes outside to prevent access to a web site, it usually doesn't compromise data. Attacking a contractor that has notoriously weak security is not much of a challenge either. It has the potenetial of being a serious problem for sure, but I don't see it getting there soon.

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