The FBI said Thursday that it had served more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an investigation into computer attacks on websites of businesses that stopped providing services in December to WikiLeaks. The FBI statement announcing the search warrants is the first evidence of the US intentions to prosecute the so-called “hacktivists” for their actions in support of WikiLeaks. At the same time the police force in several European countries have raided the homes of young computer geeks in the age range between 15 and 20 years. Okay – I guess this game is just starting.
“The US does not have the technology to take the site down. Just the way our technology is constructed, the way the Internet is constructed.”
The statement notes that a group known as “Anonymous” has claimed credit for the attacks. Anonymous is also believed responsible in recent days for attacks on government websites in Tunisia and Egypt. British news reports said three of the five arrested were teenagers, aged 15, 16 and 19, and that the others were 20 and 26 years old. Dutch police last month arrested two teenagers suspected of involvement in the online campaign.
The search warrants were executed on the same day authorities in Great Britain announced that they had arrested five people in connection with the attacks, which temporarily crippled the websites of Amazon.com, PaylPal, MasterCard, Visa, the Swiss bank PostFinance and others, according to the McClatchy website.
FBI officials have not made any comments, yet, and the statement don’t say who is served with the search warrants or where searches have been conducted.
The FBI notes that attacks, known as distributed denial of service attacks, and which use easily available software to shutdown a computer network by flooding it with millions of requests for information, violate federal laws and are punishable by a prison sentence of 10 years.
According to the US authorities was the latest attacks organized through social networking sites such as Twitter during the days after WikiLeaks began publishing US State Department cables that apparently had been downloaded by an American Army private serving in Iraq.
Their first target was Amazon.com which had stopped hosting the WikiLeaks website.
They spread to PayPal, MasterCard and Visa after those businesses declined to process credit card payments destined to WikiLeaks.
PostFinance, a bank operated by Switzerland’s postal service, also closed an account that was registered to Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ founder. The account number had been published on the WikiLeaks website with a solicitation for donations. PostFinance said it closed the account because Assange was not a resident of Switzerland, as Swiss law required.
The attacks did not do any long-term damage, and in most cases only lasted a few hours. But legitimate would-be users were unable to contact the sites while the attacks were underway.
The FBI says it is working with several European governments and the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) to identify the source the attacks, which the FBI attributed to a type of software it identified as “Low Orbit Ion Canon” tools.
They points out that major anti-virus programs had been updated to block such software.
Previously, the only known criminal investigation stemming from WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of US State Department cables was one that seeks to tie WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange to Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is suspected of providing the cables to the website.
In December, a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., issued a search warrant to Twitter demanding the records of five of its users, including Assange and Manning.
- Army opens probe of its role in WikiLeaks security breach
- WikiLeaks: U.S. having trouble tying Assange to Manning
- Commentary: Don’t make the WikiLeaks problem worse
- In WikiLeaks fight, U.S. journalists take a pass
- U.S. seeks Twitter info on WikiLeaks’ Assange, others
- Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks
Related by The Econotwist’s:
- Bank of America Sets Up War Room, Hires Army of Lawyers
- Media Freedom Threatened In Most European Countries
- European criminals and politicians taking “libel tourism” trips to UK
- Estonia Put Pressure On Journalists
- EU Hunts For Journalist’s Sources
- Estonian Newspapers Protesting With Blank Front Page
- FBI Executes Warrants for Pro-WikiLeaks Hackers (newser.com)
- FBI goes after Anonymous for pro-WikiLeaks DDoS attacks (arstechnica.com)
- Anonymous hacking suspects released on bail (guardian.co.uk)
- SFgate.com FBI searches in WikiLeaks denial-of-service case (sfgate.com)
- FBI Targets Cyber Attackers Supporting WikiLeaks (techdailydose.nationaljournal.com)