Anonymous poster
Anonymous, the cyber hacking group, faces multiple arrests. Image: believekevin/Flickr/CC BY

Fourteen people were arrested by the F.B.I. Tuesday on suspicion of planning a cyber attack against eBay’s PayPal website. The detainees are alleged to be members of Anonymous, a cyber-vigilante group that claims political motives. Meanwhile, cyber-crime seems to be on the rise worldwide.

14 arrested in 10 states

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, the arrests came at the end of a long investigation. The FBI executed more than 35 search warrants and arrested 14 people in 10 different states. Arrests were made in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. The ages of those indicted ranged from 20 to 42.

Crusaders for WikiLeaks

The FBI says that Anonymous was mounting a cyber attack on PayPal in retaliation for the site blocking the accounts of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Anonymous is a loosely organized network of cyber vigilantes who are sympathetic to WikiLeaks. The group took credit for hacking into Apple servers in December and shutting down sites for MasterCard and Visa. The credit card sites had stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks.

Defenders and detractors

Stanley Cohen, an attorney for one of the arrested, likened the groups efforts to 18th century pamphleteers.

“In the 18th century, people stood on street corners handing out pamphlets saying, ‘Beware the all-powerful military and big government.’ Some people listened. Some people walked away. Today, pamphleteers use the Internet …” Cohen ended with a plea for perspective. “The people being arrested are not being accused of acts of violence.”

Computer Security expert Josh Shaul said, however:

“I don’t think anybody should be surprised. They played with fire, and they got burned.”

Arrests for cyber-crimes

Meanwhile, there were many other arrests around the world for cyber-crimes this week. Three people were arrested in the Netherlands and one in New Mexico. One, in Britain, is now being detained by Scotland Yard. Another was arrested in New Jersey for stealing confidential company records and posting them on a public site.

Both the man in Britain and the office worker in New Jersey allegedly may have connections to Lulz Security, another cyber-vigilante group that is closely associated with Anonymous.


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