FBI Confirms Arrests in Anonymous Hacking Case

A bureau source confirms arrests have been made in concert with nationwide searches

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has arrested people alleged to be involved with hactivist collective Anonymous, a bureau source confirmed today. "There are a number of searches and arrests taking place in a number of locations," the source said. A tweet from Michael van Poppel at Breaking News said Fox News was reporting "more than a dozen" arrests. The bureau has said an announcement will come out later today, detailing a multi-city operation that involved searches, interviews, and arrests. In New York, bureau spokeswoman Adrienne Senatore reiterated that no arrests had taken place during this morning's raids in Long Island and Brooklyn. Senatore also said the bureau had possibly interviewed somebody in the Bronx, though she said no search was carried out there, contrary to a report by CBS earlier today.

Update (1:23 p.m. EDT): Fox News has reported arrests in Florida, New Jersey and California, as part of this morning's operation.

Update (2:34 p.m. EDT): CNN is reporting that 14 people have been arrested nationwide, as agents carry out searches, including half a dozen in New York, up from the three the New York FBI office confirmed earlier today.

Update (4:42 p.m. EDT): Fox News is now reporting that 16 people have been arrested, but CBS is sticking with 14. The updated Fox report says the arrests came in conjunction with some 40 search warrants nationwide.

Update (6:04 p.m. EDT): The Department of Justice has confirmed the arrest of 16 individuals for various roles in cyber attacks, 14 of whom were involved in the attack on Pay Pal known as Operation Payback. In a press release, the DOJ confirms that the individuals arrested are affiliated with Anonymous and notes that two related arrests were made in the U.K. and the Netherlands. The release explains the charges were filed in a San Diego district court:

The San Jose indictment alleges that in retribution for PayPal’s termination of WikiLeaks’ donation account, a group calling itself Anonymous coordinated and executed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal’s computer servers using an open source computer program the group makes available for free download on the Internet. DDoS attacks are attempts to render computers unavailable to users through a variety of means, including saturating the target computers or networks with external communications requests, thereby denying service to legitimate users. According to the indictment, Anonymous referred to the DDoS attacks on PayPal as “Operation Avenge Assange.” 

The hacker handles of those arrested don't appear to match known Anonymous members like Sabu, Topiary or Kayla, but all match the young male profile:

The individuals named in the San Jose indictment are: Christopher Wayne Cooper, 23, aka “Anthrophobic;” Joshua John Covelli, 26, aka “Absolem” and “Toxic;” Keith Wilson Downey, 26; Mercedes Renee Haefer, 20, aka “No” and “MMMM;” Donald Husband, 29, aka “Ananon;”  Vincent Charles Kershaw, 27, aka “Trivette,” “Triv” and “Reaper;” Ethan Miles, 33; James C. Murphy, 36; Drew Alan Phillips, 26, aka “Drew010;” Jeffrey Puglisi, 28, aka “Jeffer,” “Jefferp” and “Ji;” Daniel Sullivan, 22; Tracy Ann Valenzuela, 42; and Christopher Quang Vo, 22.  One individual’s name has been withheld by the court.

The maximum penalty for the hackers offenses is ten years in jail and a $250,000 fine.

Update (6:51 p.m. EDT) In a conversation in a chat channel set aside for press, involved a user named Topiary, who has been cited as a core member of Anonymous and LulzSec, and who curates the LulzSec Twitter stream.

"It's our belief that the FBI are continuously hitting volunteer/supporter DDoS Anons who accidentally (or just foolishly) used LOIC from their home IPs," Topiary said. "Note the raid reason: DDoS."

He was referring to the distributed denial of service attacks cited by the FBI as the reason for the searches and arrests. The high-profile attacks by Anonymous offshoot Lulz Security mostly involved leaking private data from companies such as Sony or agencies such as the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

"To be honest I don't see a single major Anon hacker (or at least any hacker that's wrecked things for the entire year) come close to arrest," said Topiary. Anonymous has a protocol for its new members to maintain their anonymity, including using a proxy server, but Topiary said many had foregone the precautions.

"The other point to be made is how far behind they always are with search and arrest warrents," said a user going by the handle c0s. "It usually seems that anything being done today is actually from 3-4 months ago."

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