15 people, suspected of involvement in the Anonymous hacktivism movement which has launched a series of internet attacks, were arrested earlier this week following raids in Italy and Switzerland.
According to media reports, a 26-year-old Swiss-Italian called “Phre”, based in Canton Ticino, was amongst those detained and charged. It is alleged that “Phre” was a senior member of the group, who approved companies for the hackers to target.
The Italian branch of Anonymous is suspected of bombarding government, business and media websites with denial-of-service attacks, with victims including the Italian senate, energy firm ENI, defence firm Finmeccanica, and financial institution UniCredit.
A total of 32 homes in Italy and Switzerland were searched by police as part of the investigation, with those detained aged between 15 and 28 years of age. Dozens more people are believed to still be being investigated.
A statement published on an Anonymous website, however, played down the significance of the arrests.
The “press release” underlined the lack of structure inside Anonymous, and denied reports that the entire Italian Anonymous network had been dismantled:
Those arrested are not "dangerous hackers" as the media calls them, but people like you. They have been arrested while peacefully protesting for there and your rights. Our protest will continue louder than ever.
The Italian Anonymous have not fallen because of this cowardly attempt to dismantle them and announce consequences for there actions taken by the police, to demonstrate that anonymous is present and fights on, like it did in the past and will in the future, for the freedom of the internet.
I’m not sure those words will be much comfort to those who have been arrested by the Italian authorities. Right now, they may well be reflecting on whether participating in a denial-of-service attack is illegal or not.