UK police arrest five Anonymous WikiLeaks defenders

The five males are suspected to have taken part in attacks on major websites

UK police arrested three teenagers and two other people on Thursday for allegedly taking part in a series of denial-of-service attacks against major websites earlier this year as part of the loosely affiliated group "Anonymous."

The five males, who range in age from 15 to 26, will be charged with offenses under the Computer Misuse Act of 1990. The arrests were carried out by the Metropolitan Police's Police Central e-Crime Unit on Thursday morning in the West Midlands, Northhamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London.

If convicted, each of the five could face up to 10 years in prison and a £5,000 (US$8,000) fine.

International law enforcement agencies in Europe and the U.S. are continuing to investigate Anonymous. The group, which has conducted denial-of-service attacks in the past against Scientology-related websites, most recently came in spotlight after the grassroots movement sought to punish companies that severed ties with WikiLeaks.

Companies including PayPal, Visa and MasterCard said they would no longer process payments to WikiLeaks following the site's disclosure of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Anonymous members then started an electronic assault, bombarding those sites with traffic to try and shut them down.

Anonymous also helped promote a tool dubbed the "Low Orbit Ion Cannon" that would let less sophisticated users join the attack. One version of the tool is a client application that is downloaded by a user and can be remotely controlled via an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) or be manually configured. The other is a JavaScript-based Web site.

Researchers who studied the tool found that it was very easy for ISPs and investigators to trace the source of the attack by looking at the attacker's IP (Internet protocol) address.

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Jeremy Kirk

IDG News Service
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