Five men in their teens and 20s were arrested in the United Kingdom on Thursday in raids coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States.
The men ranged in age from 15 to 26, and were arrested for alleged violations of the Computer Misuse Act, the Telegraph reported.
They were taken to police stations in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London, according to the newspaper. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and the equivalent of a $7968.50 fine.
The FBI raids were part of an ongoing investigation into coordinated distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against major companies and organizations, the FBI said in a press release. DDoS attacks use software designed to damage a computer network’s operation by flooding it with useless commands and information.
A group called “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks, “saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions,” said the FBI. The bureau said the victims included major U.S. companies across several industries, but didn’t specify which.
MasterCard, PayPal and Visa all had their websites attacked in December after they refused to process donations to WikiLeaks, in a DDoS attack the so-called “hacktivists” dubbed “Operation Avenge Assange.”
The FBI’s press release reminded the public that “facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability.”
The Washington Post’s Ian Shapira yesterday profiled some of the U.S.-based members of the collective, including a 17-year-old senior at a D.C. private school and a 22-year-old community college student in Prince George’s County.
Reached by TPM, an FBI spokeswoman wouldn’t say exactly where the 40-plus raids were conducted, but said they happened all over the U.S.