Spanish police swoop on vigilante hackers
Spanish police said Friday they had nabbed three leading hackers from vigilante group Anonymous for online attacks on Sony PlayStation and the governments of Egypt, Libya and Iran.
The trio were suspected leaders of the Spanish operations of Anonymous, a so-called "hacktivist" group that breaks into computers online to pursue an agenda of political activism.
Officers snatched the three suspects in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, Valencia in the east and Almeria in the southeast.
"One of them had in his home a server on which they coordinated and executed computer attacks on government, financial and business web pages around the world," police said in statement.
They launched online attacks on Sony PlayStation, major banks BBVA and Bankia, Italian power company Enel, and the governments of Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand, police said.
A police technological investigation squad analysed more than two million lines recorded on web pages and chats to track down the leadership who took decisions and launched the online hacks, they said.
It is unclear what role they are accused of playing in massive online attacks in April on Sony, which only this month restored PlayStation Network services everywhere except Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
The Sony attack was one of the biggest data breaches since the advent of the Internet. The user names, passwords, addresses and birth dates of more than 100 million people may have been compromised.
Sony later suffered attacks on websites including in Greece, Thailand and Indonesia.
The Internet vigilante group Anonymous has denied carrying out the attack on Sony's online services, but said it could not rule out that some of its members were responsible.
According to Spanish police, Anonymous is organized in independent cells which coordinate to launch simultaneous "denial of service" attacks on Internet sites.
In these attacks, web servers crash under the sheer volume of connections made by "zombie" computers worldwide that have been infected with a virus and enslaved to carry out the hackers' commands.
The cell is also accused of attacking Spain's central election commission on May 18, four days ahead of regional elections, and later targetting both the Catalan police and the major UGT labour union.
It was the first Spanish police operation against Anonymous, which has only been subject to similar police action in the United States and Britain, because of the complex security measures members take to guard their anonymity, the police statement said.
© 2011 AFP