There are more questions than answers two days after a spate of arrests of alleged members of the group Anonymous, with the group’s core leadership apparently escaping the attention of law enforcement.
Two days after FBI agents conducted raids and searches on homes in nine states and the District of Columbia and arrested 16 suspected members of the anarchic hacking group Anonymous, the group used its Twitter account to mock the federal authorities and promise retribution. The messages suggest that its core leadership was left largely untouched by the sweeping arrests.
The FBI arrests targeted individuals who participated in a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the Web sites of Paypal, the online payment Web site in December, 2010, according to a 15 count indictment published in U.S. District Court in San Jose California.
Fourteen of the accused are alleged to have distributed a denial of service software application, dubbed LOIC – for the Low Orbit Ion Cannon – and to have used that program to attack servers belonging to Paypal. Two other defendants are linked to the theft and publication of data related to AT&T and the FBI’s Infraguard Program.
On Thursday, Anonymous and the affiliated group Lulz Security issued a statement via Twitter lambasting the FBI and “international law authorities” for statements made in the aftermath of the arrests promising further action.
“We’re back – and we’re not going anywhere. Expect us,” the statement read. The group also hinted at new disclosures stemming from hacks of Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid in the UK and a reported breach of systems belonging to NATO.
As it stands, none of the sixteen individuals named in the published indictments shows up in lists of known and suspected leaders of Anonymous, which have been publicized by groups like Backtracesecurity. Rather, the arrests and searches appear similar to those conducted in Europe, including the December, 2010 arrest of a Dutch teenager for participating in DDoS attacks on the Web sites of Mastercard and Visa.
Authorities appeared to make more progress in the case of two attacks attributed to LulzSec. They include an attack on the FBI’s Infraguard program and the theft of data from Convergys, a Cincinnati based service provider that was recently acquired by AT&T. In both those cases, individuals responsible for the theft of data eventually publicized by LulzSec were named in separate complaints.
Similarly, 35 searches of homes were carried out on Tuesday, with authorities stressing that, in some cases, the computers seized in those searches may have been involved in DDoS attacks without the knowledge or explicit consent of their owners.
Rather than technical leaders responsible for coordinating and carrying out the hacks of firms like HBGary, Sony, The Sun or Booz Allen Hamilton, the Anonymous members brought to court this week - almost all in their early- to mid twenties – are likely sympathizers who acted as functionaries or low level foot soldiers, helping to coordinate or carry out DDoS attacks.
Still in question is the status of arrests and searches carried out in recent weeks on higher level members. They include the rumored arrest of a high ranking member of AnonOps known as “ev0″, the search and arrest of 19 year-old Ryan Cleary of the UK on June 20 and the search of the Ohio home belonging to Marshal Webb, who used the online handle m_nerva.