While the rest of the world focuses their attention on Rupert Murdoch’s news empire’s phone and email hacking scandal, a different battle wages against hackers responsible for numerous cyber-attacks that took place in nine states and Washington, D.C.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents arrested 14 people yesterday on charges stating that the 14 participated in major cyber attacks. The cyber-attacks include attempts at hacking and crippling PayPal, eBay’s payment website after PayPal dropped WikiLeaks as their client. The PayPal cyber attack happened December of last year and was allegedly coordinated by Anonymous, a hacking group. The FBI arrest was considered the largest crackdown perpetrated against hackers believed to be responsible for high-profile cyber-attacks.
Since WikiLeaks published thousands of reports embarrassing the US government and caused strains between Washington and its numerous allies, PayPal and other financial institutions like Visa and MasterCard dropped WikiLeaks from their clientele list.
This resulted in hackers flooding the companies’ websites with denial-of-service attacks. What happened was that when legitimate users of PayPal, Visa and MasterCard request information, the information is rendered unavailable. PayPal’s services suffered such cyber-attacks for several days last December.
The 14 who were arrested were charged with conspiracy with a maximum penalty of five years in prison if convicted. Also, a charge of conspiracy with intent to damage a protected computer comes with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The 14 individuals’ ages range from 20 to 42. They lived in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio.
The authorities admitted that it was difficult to consistently make successful arrests because cyber-attacks can be done launched anywhere. Hackers are capable of hiding their whereabouts.
One of the difficulties authorities have had tracking down hacking attacks is that they can be launched from anywhere and can come from an individual who can mask his location. But the authorities also acknowledged that this arrest of the 14 is a significant development.
The success of the arrest can also be attributed to the FBI’s special attention to the case. When cyber-attacks were launched against corporate and government websites, the Justice Department and the FBI were under severe pressure to step up and apprehend the hackers.