Authorities continue their campaign to catch people involved in a spate of denial-of-service attacks against companies that cut ties with WikiLeaks.
The FBI executed 40 search warrants across the country Jan. 27 as part of an
ongoing investigation into distributed denial-of-service attacks launched in "Operation
The raids came the same day U.K. authorities
arrested five people
believed to be tied to the loosely affiliated group
Anonymous, which has taken credit for the attacks. The suspects in the U.K.
range in age from 15 to 26, and were picked up after being tied to the attacks.
The goal of Operation Payback was to retaliate against companies or
institutions that cut ties to WikiLeaks or were viewed as enemies of the
whistle-blower site. The effort impacted a number of high-profile companies,
including PayPal and MasterCard, as well as targets such as the Swedish
prosecutor's office and PostFinance, a financial institution in Switzerland
that closed an account belonging to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Besides the U.K.,
authorities in the Netherlands
have made arrests in the case as well.
Hacktivists have increasingly turned to denial-of-service attacks as a
method of protest, while others have used them as a way to silence critics. A report
from Harvard University's
Center for Internet & Society
found 280 independent media and human rights Websites had been hit
by 140 attacks between September 2009 and August 2010. Since 1998, the
researchers counted reports of 329 different attacks against more than 815
sites-numbers they estimate are only a small portion of actual attacks.
The FBI said it is working closely with other law enforcement agencies
across the globe, and said major antivirus companies have updated their
software to detect the Low Orbit Ion Cannon tool used in the attacks.
"The FBI also is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a
DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as
exposing participants to significant civil liability," the
agency said in a press release