The FBI has reportedly arrested more than 12 people in what appears to be a nationwide crackdown against alleged members of the Anonymous hacking group.
News of the arrests in California, New Jersey and Florida was reported today by Fox News and CBS News. Both stories were based on information from unnamed sources.
Spokesmen from the FBI's national office in Washington and from its field offices in San Francisco and New York confirmed to Computerworld that the agency had carried out law enforcement actions related to an ongoing cybercrime investigation. However they would neither confirm nor deny the arrests or name the group that was being investigated.
A spokespersons from the FBI's Washington office and its San Francisco field office hinted that a statement related to today's action would be released shortly.
The reported arrests follow news earlier today that the FBI was conducting a series of raids in several locations, including New York and California.
According to Fox, the FBI executed search warrants at the homes of three suspected members of Anonymous, two in Long Island and another in Brooklyn.
One of the individuals targeted was identified by Fox as Giordani Jordan, of Baldwin, N.Y. FBI agents were seen removing at least one computer from Jordan's home. Similar raids began in California starting at 6 a.m. Pacific time, Fox said.
The raids come amid a recent spike in activity by Anonymous. Just last week, members of the group claimed credit for breaking into computers belonging to military contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and exposing the email addresses and passwords of more than 90,000 military personnel.
Earlier this month, Anonymous was labeled a cyberterrorism group by the Arizona Department of Public Safety after members of the group repeatedly attacked Arizona police union websites to protest the state's tough immigration laws. ln December, Anonymous launched a series of DDoS attacks against several organizations, including PayPal and Amazon.com, to protest what it claimed were efforts to stifle whistleblower site WikiLeaks.
Today's FBI raids shouldn't come as a surprise, said Josh Shaul, CTO of Application Security Inc. "They got a lot of people angry," he said. "When you play with fire you are going to get burned."
What is unusual, however, is that some Anonymous members appeared to have put little effort into concealing their tracks, he said. "It seems like these folks who got caught were brazen and careless about the way they went about their hacking activity."
Many of the recent attacks by Anonymous and splinter group LulzSec appear to be focused on embarrassing the victims, not about outright data theft or sabotage. Even so, "they [law enforcement officials] are certainly going to want to make an example of anyone they can bring in," Shaul said.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.