A political activist wears an Anonymous mask as he and others make their pledge against election fraud during a political rally on May 25, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.Rahman Roslan/Getty Images
Thirteen suspected members of Anonymous, the internet hacking group, were indicted by a U.S. jury Thursday for allegedly carrying out worldwide cyber-attacks, including targets that refused to process payments for the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange.
The 13 members of Anonymous were charged with conspiring to intentionally cause damage to protected computers.
The U.S.-based members of Anonymous are accused of zeroing in on the computers of governments, trade associations, law firms, financial organizations and other institutions that oppose the philosophy of Anonymous to make all information free for everyone, regardless of copyright laws or national security.
The indictment filed in federal court says that from September 2010 to January 2011, Anonymous members participated in a campaign they called Operation Payback, using software known as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon to flood websites with huge amounts of Internet traffic to shut them down.
In December 2010, the conspirators discussed possible targets related to WikiLeaks, which published more than 700,000 documents and some battlefield video from Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the largest-volume leak of classified material in U.S. history.
The hacking group focused on websites that were either critical of WikiLeaks or refused to process payments for it, among them MasterCard and Visa. The targets also included the Swedish prosecutor's office for issuing arrest warrants against Assange for alleged sexual crimes.
Anonymous launched Operation Payback – an attack on the Motion Picture Industry of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the British Phonographic Industry and others – in retaliation for the discontinuation of "The Pirate Bay," a Sweden-based file sharing website devoted to the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.
According to the indictment, Anonymous also attacked other groups such as ACS: Law, a British law firm helping clients to protect intellectual property rights; Anti-piracy.nl, the website for the BREIN foundation, a Dutch trade association fighting intellectual property theft; and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.
The website of the U.S. Copyright Office at the Library of Congress was also the subject of a multiday cyber-attack.
The Associated Press