Twenty-five alleged hackers from the freewheeling, decentralized Anonymous protest movement have been arrested across Europe and South America in a massive sweep coordinated by Interpol, an agency based in France that links police around the world.
Suspects arrested in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain were believed to have carried out coordinated digital attacks against the Colombian Ministry of Defense, a Chilean electrical company and other targets, the Associated Press reported.
The Spanish national police said Tuesday that they had arrested four “cyberdelinquents” tied to Anonymous, accused of blocking and defacing websites of political parties, institutions and businesses. Authorities seized 25 personal computers, hard drives and other equipment for analysis. Two servers used by the group in Bulgaria and the Czech Republic were blocked.
One of the arrestees, known by the aliases "Thunder" and "Pacotron," was believed to be in charge of the Anonymous infrastructure in Spain and Latin America, Spanish police said.
The Interpol website was down Tuesday evening. Online chatter hinted that Anonymous had carried off a revenge attack, echoing retaliatory hacks in the past when other members were arrested.
“interpol.int seems to be #TangoDown. We can’t say that this surprises us much,” an Anonymous account tweeted.
The loosely linked band of hackers has carried off a number of cyber attacks, many of them with activist aims, such as opposing broad bills against online piracy or supporting the "Arab Spring" protests.
In December, it brought down the Stratfor security think tank server and claimed to have stolen credit card numbers from its clients to nab money for Christmas donations.
Last year, it claimed to have obtained emails, credit card information and other sensitive data from U.S. police websites in retaliation for the arrests of alleged members in the U.S. and Britain.
The year before, it said it had attacked PayPal as part of "Operation Avenge Assange" after PayPal decided to stop processing donations for WikiLeaks, which many of its members admire.
And just a few weeks ago, it posted a 16-minute recording of an FBI conference call with foreign policing agencies about two British teenagers allegedly tied to the hacking group.
"There are future operations planned in the way of everything from campaign finance reform, to elections, to infosec [information security] and much, much more, stay tuned," an Anonymous activist told the CNET technology news website in an interview Tuesday. "Expect us."
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-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles