Federal authorities hit back Tuesday against hackers who have been increasingly effective at penetrating corporate and government Web sites and accessing unauthorized information, arresting 14 people in connection with a hack of the online payment company PayPal, and two others in unrelated attacks.
Acting on an indictment filed July 13 in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. and unsealed Tuesday, FBI agents executed search warrants and took into custody 14 people on charges related to a December 2010 cyber attack on PayPal, responsibility for which was claimed by the hacking group Anonymous, the FBI said.
Also taken into custody was a New Mexico man charged with uploading confidential AT&T documents which the hacking group, LulzSec, made public, and a Florida man charged with hacking into and publishing information from Infragard, an FBI affiliate Website, on June 21.
Authorities carried out arrests in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio.
According to the federal indictment in San Jose, the 14 the defendants allegedly conspired with others to intentionally damage computers at PayPal from Dec. 6, 2010, to Dec. 10, 2010.
The indictment said Anonymous executed distributed denial of service (DdoS) attacks on PayPal after the online payment company suspended the accounts of WikiLeaks for releasing classified government cables.
Anonymous referred to the DDoS attacks on PayPal as “Operation Avenge Assange,” the indictment said. Julian Assange is the founder of WikiLeaks.
The defendants are charged with various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer.
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.
In a complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey Lance Moore, 21, of Las Cruces, N.M., was charged with allegedly stealing confidential business information stored on AT&T’s servers and posting it on a public file sharing site.
The computer hacking group, LulzSec, on June 25 publicized that they had obtained confidential AT&T documents and made them publicly available on the Internet. Moore is charged in with one count of accessing a protected computer without authorization.
In U.S. Disitct Court in Orlando, Fla, Scott Matthew Arciszewski, 21, was charged with intentional damage to a protected computer for allegedly accessing without authorization the Tampa Bay InfraGard Website and uploading three files.
Arciszewski allegedly then tweeted about the intrusion and directed visitors to a separate Web site with instructions on how to exploit the InfraGard Web site, in Tampa, Fla.
In a statement, the FBI said InfraGard is a public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection sponsored by the FBI with chapters in all 50 states.
More than 75 searches have taken place in the U.S. as part of the ongoing investigations into these cyber attacks, the FBI said in a statement.
In June, Turkish law enforcement authorities arrested more then 30 people allegedly connected to Anonymous after members launched a series of DDoS against Turkish government and telecom Web sites. Anonymous gained attention last year, when members launched a series of DDOS attacks against organizations that had cut services with WikiLeaks, targeting the sites of MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, among others.
The cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Northern District of California, Middle District of Florida and the District of New Jersey. The investigation is being co-ordinated with the law enforcement authorities in the U.K. and The Netherlands.