Hacker arrests may expose entire group

2011-07-22 10:45

Washington - The FBI's arrest this week of 16 people who allegedly participated in high-profile cyber attacks is providing a treasure trove of information and will lead to further arrests, said a US law enforcement official.

The crackdown - on members of the group Anonymous - was the biggest reaction so far by US authorities to a string of cyber attacks, and was meant to serve as a deterrent to others who may be considering joining the cause.

The arrests spanned nine states and the District of Columbia. FBI agents also executed more than 35 search warrants, seizing computers and other records. Those arrested could try to strike plea agreements offering to provide information to win treatment that is more lenient.

Some private cyber security specialists have questioned whether the raids will have much lasting impact.

"This is the good example of a significant event that successfully removed a number of individuals from being part of the problem and will certainly lead to information that will result in locating other subjects," said the law enforcement official.


The official declined to be further identified while speaking about an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

Members of Anonymous mounted attacks in 2010 against eBay's PayPal as well as Visa and Mastercard after the companies severed their relationships with the WikiLeaks organisation. The attacks included flooding the sites with data trying to render them inoperable.

The arrests included members of Anonymous at various levels of the loose-knit organisation, the official said. The official declined to comment on whether they knew each other.

While attacks by Anonymous and related "hacktivist" groups have drawn wide attention, other cyber crimes aimed at espionage are a higher priority for the FBI. The latter have included intrusions at Google, Lockheed Martin and the International Monetary Fund.

"We didn't pull resources away from those higher priority cases to work this," the official said.

It remains an open question whether the arrests will have the desired deterrent effect. Anonymous and another hacking group, Lulz Security, issued a statement on Thursday saying they would continue their efforts.

"I think they [the FBI] are trying to send a signal that this isn't cost-free in the hopes that it will scare off some of the others. If we're lucky it will work," said James Lewis, a cyber security expert with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

Stiff sentences

The law enforcement official said that people allegedly involved in the cyber attacks probably did not realise the risks of prison time and that prosecutors would likely seek stiff sentences. Those arrested, if convicted, could face up to 10 years in prison for trying to damage a protected computer.

"They're probably not the types of people who have been prepared for any time in jail. This is not a joke," the official said. "The reality of the fact that this is both a crime and that people will be actually doing time in jail I think really hasn't sunk in to a lot of people who are getting involved in these activities."

Lewis said one possible benefit from the cyber attacks is that it will lead network and website administrators to beef up their security.

"These guys exploit poor configuration, and that's the simplest thing to fix but there's just so much of it out there it will take a while," Lewis said.

  • nicholas wallace - 2011-07-22 11:42

    go ANON nice work with NATO ;) also @ lulzsec keep the (lulz) comin :D

  • ReThan - 2011-07-22 11:48

    hah wait for the retaliation!

  • Charl van Deventer - 2011-07-22 12:26

    What on earth is with these claims of hacking? What Anon did against Visa and Mastercard was not hacking. They simply bombarded the sites with fake requests to drown out legitimate traffic. No data was compromised and no penetration occurred. The real-life equivalent to this act would be a whole bunch of people calling their phone lines, then hung up when answered to prevent legitimate calls from getting through. Or a picket line in front of a bank to interfere people accessing it. I'm unsure how legal both those examples would be, but calling it hacking is unfair. The actual hacking, that of HBGary, Nato, that police station, etc, nevermind the SERIOUS non-anon hacks of Google and Sony, THOSE are hacking. So far the only arrest that concerns antisec that have been made was the one IRC administrator and not even a perpetrator, so ya, this article pretty much helps cover up the lack of progress in the important and serious cases.

  • fanta.panda - 2011-07-22 12:43

    Wow, a whole 16 people? What a wonderful use of tax-payer money. And how many of those were just teenagers? Just be weary that any hacker worth their salt can easily access your PC remotely over unsecure networks and leave no trace that they were ever in there in the first place. Pfft ... the US law enforcement agencies know nothing about Anonymous or what the collective actually is. This is only going to provoke more to join their cause. In the war between the Internet and the police state, I'll back the Internet, thank you very much.

  • Taurusaurus - 2011-07-22 14:44

    "The FBI's arrest this week of 16 people who allegedly participated in high-profile cyber attacks is providing a treasure trove of information [...]" They gonna get trollololol'd :P

  • James - 2011-07-24 12:39

    wonder if any of them directed the FBI to as a lead?

  • Badballie - 2011-07-25 13:18

    and as fast as you take one group down another will fill its shoe's. Human rights supersede government rights and the system will fall to a new angry sound

  • Badballie - 2011-07-25 13:20

    yea but the headlines make the FBI look good! America doesn't like being sidelined by individuals, its going to be a long haul before they accept that they answer to the people and not the other way around

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