June 10, 2011

Three Suspected ‘Anonymous’ Members Detained In Spain

Spanish police arrested three suspected computer hackers who belonged to a loose-knit international hactivist group that has attacked corporate and government websites around the world.

Spain's National Police said the three were part of the Spanish section of the famous hacker group called "Anonymous."  Manuel Vazquez, chief of the police's high-tech crime unit, said all three are Spaniards between the ages 30 and 32.

Vazquez said a computer server in one of their homes was used to take part in cyber attacks on targets including two major Spanish banks, the Italian energy company Enel and the governments of Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Columbia and New Zealand.

The server was also used to hack into an online PlayStation store, but Vazquez said the three detainees had not been involved in Sony's major PlayStation Network security breach.

Vazquez said the three detainees have been released without bail but face a charge that is new in the Spanish penal code.

The three men staged cyber attacks on the website of Spain's central electoral commission a few days before local and regional elections on May 22.

Vazquez said the night before the election, the three men tried to shut down the web pages of Spain's two main political parties and that of the Spanish parliament but were thwarted by police.

"Anonymous is a network with a common idea, but it has loads of cells around the world. Using chats they agree to stage denial-of-service attacks on any page of any company or organization anywhere in the world," Vazquez told a news conference, referring to a cyber-bombardment-like technique used to shut down an Internet page.

He said police were still analyzing computer files and other material but have no record of the three Spaniards having obtained sensitive data.

Vazquez said members of Anonymous use a lot methods for hiding their identity.

Two of the detainees had no Internet connection at home so they would not raise suspicions, but instead "piggybacked" on the neighbors Wi-Fi, he told a news conference.

According to the statement, the only other countries to act against "Anonymous" so far are the U.S. and Britain. 

The suspects in Spain were arrested in Barcelona, the Valencia region and the southern city of Almeria.

Spanish police specializing in cyber crime analyzed over two million lines of online chat and Internet pages until they finally zeroed in on the three suspects since October 2010.

British police arrested five young males on suspicion of involvement in cyber attacks by Anonymous in January.

The group of hackers claimed responsibility for attacking the websites of companies like Visa, MasterCard and PayPal. 

"Anonymous" accused the companies of trying to stifle WikiLeaks and rallied an army of online supporters to flood their servers with traffic, periodically blocking access to their sites for hours at a time.

The group took credit in a Twitter post for taking down the Egyptian Ministry of Information's website and said the group was motivated by a desire to support Egyptian pro-democracy protestors.