FBI agents arrested at least 14 people and seized computers on Tuesday as part of a broad crackdown against the hacking collective known as Anonymous.
A federal government official told CNN that agents arrested people in Florida, the San Francisco area in California and New Jersey, and fanned out to a half dozen locations in New York City and Long Island, where they seized computers and other records. The agency issued 15 search warrants before the start of the operation.
Officials suspect that members of Anonymous were responsible for denial of service attacks on a host of organizations that include the Church of Scientology, the CIA and Fox News.
A recent hack of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton exposed 90,000 military e-mail addresses, and a previous effort against Arizona's Department of Public Safety published documents containing e-mail addresses and passwords of the state's police officers. Anonymous rose to prominence in December when they struck Visa and Mastercard in retaliation for the credit card companies suspending service for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.
Anonymous represents a difficult target because it is a loose collective of hackers lacking a central hierarchy, but Tuesday's arrests nonetheless were additions to an ongoing effort to disrupt the network.The FBI issued more than 40 search warrants targeting Anonymous members in the U.S. after five people were arrested for allegedly connections to the group in January.
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The operation coincides with the federal government bolstering its capacity to defend against cyber-attacks, spurred into action by a recent hack of the Pentagon that claimed some 24,000 secret files. Officials blamed the hack on a hostile foreign government, and emphasized the need to rethink the government's cyber security plans.
The cyber threats we face are urgent, sometimes uncertain and potentially devastating as adversaries constantly search for vulnerabilities, Deputy U.S. Secretary for Defense William Lynn said in a statement.
Our infrastructure, logistics network and business systems are heavily computerized. With 15,000 networks and more than seven million computing devices, DoD continues to be a target in cyberspace for malicious activity.