The FBI said Tuesday it had arrested a total of 14 individuals thought to belong to the Anonymous hacking group for their alleged participation in a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS) against PayPal last year.
The defendants, all of whom were in the 20s or early 30s, were arrested on no-bail arrest warrants in a series of raids in Alabama, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and five other states. All of them were charged in an indictment that was unsealed in federal court in San Jose today.
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One of them, Scott Matthew Arciszewski, 21, was arrested in Florida on charges that he illegally accessed files from a Tampa Bay InfraGard website last year and then publicly posted information telling others how to break into the site.
The other indictment unsealed in federal court in New Jersey charged Lance Moore, 21, of Las Cruces, N.M., of stealing protected business information from an AT&T server in June this year, and posting it on a public file hosting site. The thousands of documents, applications and files that Moore is alleged to have stolen was later made publicly available by the LulzSec hacking group, the indictment alleges.
According to the San Jose indictment, the 14 individuals who were arrested today were all members of Anonymous who conspired to attack PayPal last December in retaliation for its perceived opposition to WikiLeaks.
Soon after the whistleblower site started publicly releasing classified U.S. State Department cables late last November, PayPal terminated an account that WikiLeaks had set up to collect donations, citing violations of its terms of service.
The move prompted a series of angry retaliatory DDoS attacks against PayPal by members of the Anonymous hacking collective. Similar attacks were carried out by Anonymous members against several other sites that were seen as opposing WikiLeaks.
The attacks, dubbed "Operation Avenge Assange," were coordinated by Anonymous using an open source tool called Low Orbit Ion Cannon that the group made available for public download to anyone who wanted to participate.
The 14 individuals named in today's indictment in San Jose have each been charged with conspiring to and intentionally causing damage to a protected computer. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the intentional damage charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $500,000 charge, the FBI noted in its statement.