FBI agents arrested 16 people total yesterday for participating in major cyber attacks

Recent hacks on governments and large corporations have placed a spotlight on internet security and its importance. These hacks have also made people around the world wonder who could have launched such high-profile attacks, and yesterday, U.S. authorities were able to answer that question with the arrest of 16 individuals. 

FBI agents arrested 16 people yesterday for participating in major cyber attacks. Fourteen of those arrested had allegedly participated in the cyber attack against PayPal back in December. 

Last year, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa had cut ties with Wikileaks after the website publicized thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic reports, which caused tension between Washington and allies. In response, hackers launched "denial-of-service" attacks, which bombarded the companies' websites with requests for information. This caused the companies' websites to be unable to tend to legitimate customers. In fact, PayPal felt the heat of the cyber blast for several days last December. 

December's attack, which was allegedly coordinated by the hacking group Anonymous, among others, had led to a federal investigation of epic proportions. U.S. authorities released over 35 search warrants around the country in order to find those behind the cyber attacks. The FBI and the Justice Department had been under pressure to find these people after such high-profile attacks, and public taunting from hacking groups did not help.

Now, FBI agents were able to arrest 14 individuals associated with the PayPal cyber attack. These individuals were located in nine states and Washington D.C. These states were Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Nevada and Ohio. They ranged in age from 20 to 42. 

The fifteenth arrest occurred in New Mexico where an employee for a contractor for AT&T's wireless service had allegedly downloaded thousands of documents associated with its LTE broadband network and 4G data network. The final arrest occurred in Florida, where a man was charged with illegally accessing Tampa Bay Infragard's website as well as uploading malicious files. 

"It does look like some of these guys were just fools. The PayPal attack in particular," said Stewart Baker, a former top official of the Homeland Security Department who is now with the law firm Steptoe and Johnson LLP. "It looks like these bozos must have just said, 'Cool, an attack on PayPal. You can use my machine."

The Justice Department and FBI consider this a major victory since hackers can be difficult to identify if their location is masked, and hope to continue locating other high-profile hackers around the country.

"The fact that they have been tracked back and that some of them have been arrested is a significant development," said Mark Rasch, former chief of the Justice Department's cyber crimes unit who is now director of Cybersecurity and Privacy Consulting for government technology services firm CSC.

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