Thirteen further alleged members of web rabble-rousers Anonymous have been charged with masterminding online attacks against corporations and others who oppose internet piracy.
Anonymous' "Operation: Payback is a bitch" campaign involved a series of denial-of-service assaults apparently against government and company websites between September 2010 and January 2011 - and, it is claimed, mainly targeting organisations hostile towards the illegal exchange of copyrighted stuff on file-sharing networks.
Targets including the US Copyright Office; major credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard; trade groups including the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America; the Bank of America; and a law firm. Each were subjected to floods of network traffic that overloaded servers and knocked websites offline, it is alleged.
UK targets including the British Phonographic Institute; the Ministry of Sound nightclub; and the now defunct law firm ACS:Law were also hit by the alleged activists, US prosecutors claim.
It is further believed that other international targets include the administrators of Hadopi, a French system that punishes people who infringe intellectual-property rights; the Spanish General Society of Authors and Publishers; the Italian branch of the International Federation of Phonographic Industry; and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Websites associated with individual artists, such as former KISS bassist Gene Simmons, were also hit, it is claimed.
Anonymous' Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC) was used to flood targeted web servers with junk traffic, say prosecutors: with enough users gathered to point the software at a server, it is possible to overwhelm the target.
But LOIC makes no attempt to hide the internet network addresses of those who participated in attacks, a boon for investigators.
The defendants, whose ages range from range 21 to 65, are all charged with conspiracy to intentionally cause damage to protected computers. Not all the subjects participated in all the attacks.
According to a 28-page indictment [PDF] (PACER summary here, dated 3 October), it's alleged the 13 suspects decided which websites to target and when before circulating instructions on the net, inviting others to take part in the assaults. Information was passed around web bulletin boards, social networks and dedicated IRC channels, it is claimed.
The alleged offences also extended to alleged incitement to harassment. For example, defendant Wade Carl Williams (AKA TheMiNd) allegedly posted a link to a flier that had the home address and phone number of the Bank of America's chief exec and his wife in December 2010. Almost all the offences listed on the indictment cover distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, however.
One of the suspects, Dennis Owen Collins (AKA iowa, owen or anon5), was charged in 2011 with similar DDoS offences involving attacks by Anonymous against PayPal [indictment PDF here]. Collins along with 13 other suspects are expected to answer charges in a Californian court over the alleged attacks on PayPal later this month, RT reports. ®