British authorities have arrest five suspects allegedly connected to the hacking group "Anonymous," a loosely organized network that most recently grabbed headlines for bringing denial-of-service attacks against companies that severed ties with WikiLeaks.
In the aftermath of the whistleblower site's publication of thousands of secret diplomatic and intelligence documents, U.S. lawmakers and agency officials urged businesses that had been providing WikiLeaks with financial services, Web capabilities or other support to terminate service to the group.
Companies such as Amazon, PayPal, Visa and MasterCard shut off service to WikiLeaks after the publication of the first batch of documents, which drew stern condemnations from top administration officials.
Soon after, the firms that had been processing payments to WikiLeaks reported that they were being hit with distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, where hackers seek to knock a site offline by overwhelming its servers.
The group Anonymous, which has previously targeted Scientology websites with DDoS attacks, had been encouraging sympathizers to download its low-orbit ion cannon (LOIC), an open source tool used to flood the target site's servers with junk traffic. For a time, the repeated page-load requests hobbled the MasterCard, PayPal and Visa websites in what Anonymous dubbed "Operation Payback."
Most recently, the so-called hacktivists have marshaled attacks on government websites in Egypt and Tunisia in a show of sympathy with protesters in those countries.
Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officials confirmed the arrests in a brief statement.
"The arrests are in relation to recent and ongoing 'distributed denial of service' attacks (DDoS) by an online group calling themselves 'Anonymous,'" police said. "They are part of an ongoing MPS investigation in to Anonymous which began last year following criminal allegations of DDoS attacks by the group against several companies."
The arrests are part of a coordinated effort among international law enforcement authorities in Europe and the United States.
The Department of Justice is conducting its own investigation of WikiLeaks and affiliate individuals and groups.
Detectives arrested five males of the ages 15, 16, 19, 20 and 26 this morning at residential addresses in various areas of England.
Police are pursuing charges against the individuals under Britain's 1990 Computer Misuse Act.
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