At least 21 people were arrested in the U.S. and Europe, and dozens of search warrants were executed by the FBI Tuesday — including six in New York — as part of an investigation into a group of hackers that attacked several websites since December, authorities said Tuesday.
The alleged hackers, part of the group “Anonymous,” were arrested in connection with cyber attacks on PayPal’s website in December. The group is also suspected of several other attacks, including ones on Sony and FoxNews.com. “Pick your favorite outlet, they’ve been hacked,” one official said.
Six homes were raided in New York Tuesday — five on Long Island and one in Brooklyn — and computers were removed, though nobody was arrested. Officials offered no other information on those raids.
“The searches today were conducted in accordance with an ongoing FBI investigation,” spokesman Peter Donald said.
Officials said the hackers targeted PayPal because it suspended WikiLeaks’ accounts after it released classified cables on its website in November. Under the hackers’ operation, dubbed “Avenge Assange,” (in reference to WikiLeaks’ head), they prevented legitimate users from accessing PayPal, according to the indictment.
The arrests came in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico and Ohio. In addition, police in the United Kingdom arrested one person and the Dutch National Police arrested four others in connection to the investigation.
The maximum penalty for damaging a protected computer is 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Conspiracy charges carry a five-year maximum prison sentence and the same $250,000 fine.