Spanish police announced today that they had captured three people suspected of hacking in connection with the recent attacks against Sony’s PlayStation Network, as well as government and corporate websites around the world. The National Police have identified the trio as the local leadership of the internationally infamous network of hackers known as Anonymous. Anonymous has been claiming responsibility for a number of recent cyber-attacks around the world.
The police statement suggests that Anonymous maintains membership of people from various countries organized into cells that share common goals. These hackers are activists operating anonymously but in a coordinated fashion. Commonly referred to as “hactivists” this group of hackers has been cyber-attacking networks and websites around the globe and then gleefully advertising their successes.
One of the detainees, a 31 year old man, was apprehended in the southern city of Almeria sometime after May 18th, according to the police. There was a server in his apartment in the northern port city of Gijon from which they believe Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the Sony Playstation online gaming store.
They’ve also stated that the same computer was also employed in coordinated hacks against two Spanish banks, BBVA and Bankia, as well the Italian energy company Enel. Government sites in Spain, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand were also attacked using this server, the police claim.
This investigation was opened last October after the attack on the Spanish Ministry of Culture’s Web site in protest against Spanish legislation increasing punishments for illegal downloads.
The other two suspects were apprehended in Barcelona and Valencia, respectively. Unfortunately, the police’s statement did not state the timing of these arrests clearly nor did it mention whether any of the three arrested were still being detained. They were, however, expected to be charged with forming an illegal association to attack public and corporate web sites. The charged group members could face up to three years in prison if found guilty.
It is clear that Anonymous has not been the sole perpetrator of the attacks against Sony. About a dozen of Sony’s web sites and services around the world have been hacked and, as the public is well aware, the largest breach caused the PSN Network to be completely shut down for close to a month and compromised the sensitive information of countless users. While Anonymous and other “hactivist” groups have cheerfully advertised their responsibility for some of the attacks, no one has come forward to claim the PSN attack that cost Sony so much downtime. LulzSec has even been quiet on that score and they have not been shy about proclaiming to the world whenever they’ve successfully caught a corporation with its proverbial pants down.
Sony has estimated that the combined attacks will cost it about $173 million in damages, including legal costs, lower sales and free offers to lure back customers and information technology spending. Mami Imada, a spokeswoman for Sony in Tokyo, told the press that she had no information regarding the arrests made in Spain and declined further comment on behalf of the company.
The attacks by Anonymous members were accomplished by making use of a computer program called LOIC to crash Web sites by flooding them with “denial-of-service” attacks, according to police. They know this because, since October, they’ve been analyzing more than two million lines of chat logs and Web pages used by the group. This also allowed them to identify the leadership in Spain that had the capacity to “make decisions and direct attacks.”
Among recent attacks, “hactivists” also brought down the site of the Spanish National Electoral Commission last month, right before regional and municipal elections. It was that attack, on May 18th, that proved to be a fatal step for the 31 year old team member as it led to the arrest in Almeria.
It’s clear that this year might very well end up the year of the hackers. It leads those of us who use computers regularly, and that would be the great majority of us, to wonder what's really going on and how safe our data is in the cloud. Even data stored by respected companies like Sony or banks does not seem to be safe in these times.
How do you react when a site that you are a user of gets hacked?
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.