FBI arrests 16 in hacker crackdown

‘Anonymous’ may not be quite as anonymous as they believed. Anonymous

The FBI has arrested 16 people as part of a crackdown on the Internet’s best-known hacker group. These come on top of five arrests by British and Dutch police yesterday, which were part of a coordinated effort. 

Agents also reportedly raided 35 other addresses in connection with a series of attacks on companies such as PayPal, which took place last year. (Anonymous targeted the site for its decision to not allow users to make donations to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks

“In retribution for PayPal’s termination of WikiLeaks’ donation account, a group calling itself Anonymous coordinated and executed distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against PayPal’s computer servers using an open source computer program the group makes available for free download on the Internet,” the US Justice Department said in a statement.

The defendants, who (for the most part) are in their 20s, are charged with various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer. 

Anonymous’ exploits go far beyond PayPal, though. The group has a checkered history with Hollywood as well. Sony has pointed a finger of blame at the group for being at least partially to blame for the theft of personal information in over 100 million user accounts in May.

Prior to that, the group attacked the MPAA and RIAA for actions the trade groups took to squash filesharing Websites, such as “The Pirate Bay”. The Web sites for both organizations suffered some offline time, but the impact was muted.

Anonymous got its start on 4chan, the Internet’s most infamous imageboard, specifically its sometimes gritty “/b/” subforum. The founder of that site, though, says while the site (and the group) have become notorious for their exploits, there’s a value in hiding behind that wall of anonymity.

“One of the things that 4Chan does that’s really special is the way people come together to collaborate en masse,” said Christopher Poole at South by Southwest this year. “It’s the process at which you arrive at the product that is fascinating. … Anonymity is authenticity. It allows you to share in a completely unvarnished, raw way. … The cost of failure is really high when you’re contributing as yourself.”

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