A federal grand jury has indicted 13 alleged members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous in connection with online attacks targeting financial institutions, trade groups, and government entities.
The 28-page indictment, unsealed Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., charge the defendants with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to a protected computer as part of an anti-copyright campaign called "Operation Payback."
Prosecutors allege that the 13 launched a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks beginning in 2010 on the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and the U.S. Copyright Office in retaliation for the 2010 shutdown of The Pirate Bay, a Swedish torrent-tracking site. The campaign was later extended to Bank of America and credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard after they refused to process payments for WikiLeaks.
The 13 "planned and executed a coordinated series of cyber-attacks against victim Web sites by flooding those Web sites with a huge volume of irrelevant Internet traffic with the intent to make the resources on the Web sites unavailable to customers and users of those Web sites," according to the indictment (see below).
The indictment includes a message allegedly posted by one of the defendants to a Web bulletin board advertising an attack against the MPAA, a lobbying group for the US film industry. The message included instructions for downloading an attack tool and a description of the attack strategy.
"This will be a calm, coordinated display of blood. We will not be merciful," the message said.
Those named in the indictment were Dennis Owen Collins, Jeremy Leroy Heller, Chen Zhiwei, Joshua Phy, Ryan Russel Gubele, Robert Audubon Whitfield, Anthony Tadros, Geoffrey Kenneth Commander, Austen Stamm, Timothy Robert McLain, Wade Carl Williams and Thomas Bell.