Interpol reported that on Tuesday, twenty-five suspected members of the hacker group Anonymous were arrested in a sweep across South America and Europe.
The suspects, aged between seventeen and forty, were arrested in Argentina, Chile, Columbia, and Spain under the suspicion of being behind the planning of coordinated cyber attacks. Targets include Chile’s Endesa electrical company and national library, Columbia’s defense ministry and presidential web sites, as well as others.
The sweep operation was carried out by national law enforcement officers working under the support of Interpol’s Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime after an ongoing investigation that began in mid-February.
The investigation itself also “led to the seizure of 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones in the searches of forty premises in fifteen cities,” Interpol reports.
The suspects are being charged with altering web sites and engaging in denial-of-service attacks according to prosecutor Marcos Mercado, who specializes in computer crime. According to him, “The charges carry a penalty of 541 days to five years in prison.”
Police in Spain announced the arrest of four suspected Anonymous hackers, all of whom are among the twenty-five announced by Interpol, in connection with attacks on Spanish political party web sites earlier on Tuesday. A National Police statement claims that two servers used by the group in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have been blocked.
A Twitter account allegedly associated with Anonymous’s Brazilian wing claims the sweep would fail: “Interpol, you can’t take Anonymous… It’s an idea.”
Analysis: What effect these arrests will have on Anonymous is unclear, considering that they have no real membership structure. To this date, dozens of arrests have been made in Europe and North America, and Anonymous has increasingly attacked in response. It seems likely to me that, for every member who gets arrested, two more will pop up in their place.
Internet chatter also appears to point to a revenge attack on Interpol’s web site, but so far, the police organization’s home page remains in working order. I don’t see this ending particularly well for either party, and it seems somewhat reminiscent of the classic schoolyard argument, “But he started it!” One has to wonder what will come first: that the authorities will give up on trying to stop the infamous group, or if Anonymous will get bored with their own personal crusade.