Law enforcement authorities arrested 25 individuals allegedly members of the Anonymous hacktivist collective as part of an international operation, according to Interpol.
The operation began in mid-February after police traced several high-profile online attacks originating from Argentina, Colombia, Chile and Spain, Interpol said Feb. 28. The attackers allegedly targeted Websites belonging to the Ministry of Defense and president in Colombia, Endesa, a Chilean electric company, and Chile's National Library, among others.
Operation Unmask was coordinated by the Interpol's Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime. Interpol helped share intelligence across national law enforcement agencies in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain. Based on the information, police officers executed more than 40 searches across 15 cities in those four countries and confiscated around 250 devices and mobile phones. Payment cards and cash were also seized during the raids. The arrested individuals ranged in age from 17 to 40, according to Interpol.
"This operation shows that crime in the virtual world does have real consequences for those involved, and that the Internet cannot be seen as a safe haven for criminal activity, no matter where it originates or where it is targeted," said Bernd Rossbach, active Interpol executive director of police services.
Four individuals in Spain were arrested for sabotaging Websites and posting confidential data online, Spanish police said before Interpol made its announcement. The server logs obtained as part of those arrests led the police to five suspects in Colombia, six in Chile and 10 in Argentina, according to a report by Agence France Presse.
Interpol did not release any information about the evidence that linked the suspects to the collective. Anonymous has no organized structure, and there is nothing to stop someone from claiming to be affiliated with the group, making it hard to identify members. However, Spanish police said in its statement that two of the four Spanish suspects managed two servers in Bulgaria and Czech Republic that are used by Anonymous members.
In retaliation for the arrests, several members of the hacking collective appear to have launched distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the Interpol Website, according to a Twitter account associated with the group, AnonOps. The site was intermittently available after Interpol's announcement.
"interpol.int seems to be #TangoDown. We can't say that this surprises us much," Anonymous IRC posted on Twitter shortly afterward.
There have been a number of arrests of individuals accused of participating in Anonymous-led DDoS attacks and other Web attacks over the past 12 months. The attacks are almost always followed by some form of a revenge attack by the collective's members, and there have been no noticeable impact on the group's recruitment efforts or reduction in their activities.
Anonymous has targeted police and other law enforcement organizations in recent weeks by launching DDoS attacks and breaching Websites. The Los Angeles Police Canine Association's Website was attacked Feb. 23. Previous victims include Websites of the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, as well as police departments in Boston, Arizona and Alabama.