MADRID (AFP) – Spanish police said Friday they had nabbed three hackers from vigilante group Anonymous for online attacks on Sony PlayStation and the governments of Egypt, Libya and Iran among others.
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 the suspects, aged 31, had a server at his home in the northern city of Gijon to run attacks on government, financial and business sites worldwide, police said.
They are accused of hacking the Sony PlayStation online shop, the sites of major banks BBVA and Bankia, Italian power company Enel, and the governments of Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.
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 if the suspects are accused of a role in the 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 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 targeting both the Catalan police and the major UGT labour union.
Police said they launched the investigation in October 2010 after the culture ministry filed a complaint over online attacks mounted in protest at legislation to curb illegal downloads.
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.