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14 arrested in operation targeting Anonymous

From Terry Frieden and Susan Candiotti, CNN
  • The 14 are suspected in a cyberattack claimed by Anonymous
  • U.S. authorities arrest two other people on cyber-related charges
  • Five more are arrested in Europe
  • Anonymous has been linked to attacks on numerous websites
  • Crime

New York (CNN) -- Fourteen people have been arrested as part of an ongoing operation targeting the notorious hacking collective known as Anonymous, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI said on Tuesday.

The individuals were arrested by FBI agents on charges related to their alleged involvement in a cyberattack on PayPal's website, which has been claimed by the Anonymous group.

Five additional people were arrested in Europe and two more in the United States for alleged cybercrimes, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Of the additional U.S. arrests, one person is accused of exceeding his authorized access to AT&T's servers and downloading thousands of documents, applications and other files that he allegedly posted on a public file hosting site.

The other was arrested on charges of intentional damage to a protected computer. He is accused of accessing without authorization the website of the Tampa Bay InfraGard, a public-private partnership for critical infrastructure protection.

The U.S. arrests took place in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio.

A 16-year-old suspect was arrested in South London, the Metropolitan Police said. Four more people were arrested by the Dutch National Police Agency, according to the U.S. Justice Department, but it was not immediately clear where.

Additionally, authorities said they had executed more than 35 search warrants throughout in the United States, "as part of an ongoing investigation into coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations," the statement read.

FBI agents spread out to about six locations on Long Island, in Brooklyn and in the Bronx, where they seized computers and other records, according to a federal government official, who requested anonymity, given the sensitivity of the investigation.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the parents of two teenage sons who said they had their home raided by FBI agents Tuesday told CNN their kids have not been involved in any hacking activity.

Agents arrived around 6 a.m. ET at their Long Island home, where they searched the area and interviewed family members one by one, the parents said. Both of the boys reportedly had their laptops seized.

In the past, Anonymous has launched attacks on websites belonging to the Church of Scientology, the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

However, the hacker collective vaulted to worldwide fame in December, when it disabled or disrupted the websites of MasterCard, Visa and PayPal in what the group said was retaliation for the companies' cutting ties to the WikiLeaks website following the arrest of Julian Assange.

Assange founded WikiLeaks, which facilitates the release of secret information. He is currently out on bail in England and is fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faces sex crime charges.

In addition, Anonymous is suspected of being linked to cyberattacks against Sony, Fox News, the Arizona Department of Corrections and a well-known consulting firm, Booz Allen Hamilton, among others.

The group is implicated in denial-of-service attacks, in which large amounts of traffic are directed to a website, overloading it and, in effect, shutting it down.

CNN's Dana Garrett contributed to this report.