U.K. police arrested five young members of the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous in early morning raids today. The police came after three teenagers, ages 15, 16, and 19, as well as two men, ages 20 and 26. Times UK correspondent Alexi Mostrous says that Coldbood, Anonymous's unofficial spokesman, was one of the five. They were arrested on suspicion of participating in Operation Payback, Anonymous's 1,000-member strong smackdown against the companies that abandoned WikiLeaks under pressure from the U.S. government. London's Metropolitan Police Service said the arrests were over the DDOS attacks that crippled the websites of MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal, adding that it was part of an ongoing investigation on Anonymous, started last year with help from law-enforcement agencies in Europe and the U.S. In the last two years, the DOJ has successfully prosecuted at least two individuals that took part in the groups' attacks on the Church of Scientology. Although security specialists think the members arrested today are different individuals than the ones who've run previous campaigns.
Back in December, Coldblood said that Operation Payback was unrelated to Julian Assange or support of the leaked diplomatic cables.
"Anonymous is supporting WikiLeaks not because we agree or disagree with the data that is being sent out, but we disagree with any from of censorship on the internet. If we let WikiLeaks fall without a fight then governments will think they can just take down any sites they wish or disagree with."
More recently, Anonymous, a loosely structured, non-hierarchical group, has turned its attention to supporting political uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, disabling access for a time to ten Tunisian government websites and four Egyptian government sites. In that case as well, Anonymous claimed the attacks were against censorship. Authorities in Tunisia and Egypt have routinely blocked Facebook, Twitter, and other information-sharing sites where users report on the riots. Even if it's coincidental, the raids might dissuade participants from "hackercup2011," which the world might not have realized it RSVP'd to.
Here's Anonymous's call to arm for Operation Egypt. Between the robotic voice-over, spooky background music, and V for Vendetta allusions, it's like How to Freak People Out 101.