21 Arrested for Alleged Cyber Attacks

Posted July 19th, 2011 at 7:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Authorities in the United States, Britain and the Netherlands have arrested 21 people accused of mounting coordinated cyber attacks against companies and organizations.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said Tuesday it had arrested 14 people for allegedly hacking into the servers of a popular website that manages online payments, Paypal, blocking people from being able to access the site.

The FBI said in a statement the suspects, in connection with a group that calls itself “Anonymous,” attacked in retaliation for Paypal suspending the account of the controversial WikiLeaks website.

The FBI said two other people were also arrested Tuesday on separate but similar charges, and that 35 search warrants were executed across the United States in connection with the ongoing investigation.

According to the statement, the remaining five suspects were arrested in Europe — one in Britain and four in the Netherlands.

The Paypal attack suspects are being charged with various counts of conspiracy and intentionally damaging a protected computer. The charges were filed in California, but the 14 individuals arrested across the U.S. are expected to make their first court appearances in their local jurisdictions. If found guilty, the defendants could face a maximum sentence of five years in prison along with a fine of $250,000 for each count of conspiracy. They could face a 10-year sentence and a $250,000 fine on the charge of damaging a protected computer.

Paypal suspended the WikiLeaks account after the site made public hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables in November 2010, citing a violation of its terms of service. The move meant WikiLeaks could no longer receive donations via Paypal.

The U.S. government has condemned the release of the classified cables and is examining whether criminal charges can be brought against the WikiLeaks' website founder, Julian Assange.