Spanish police arrested three men suspected to be members of the hacker group Anonymous on Friday, charging them with organizing cyberattacks against the Web sites of Sony Corp, banks and governments — but not the recent massive hacking of PlayStation gamers.
Anonymous responded by threatening to retaliate for the arrests: “We are Legion, so EXPECT US,” the group said on its official Twitter feed.
Spanish police alleged the three “hacktivists” helped organize an attack that temporarily shuttered access to some Sony Web sites. They were not linked to two massive cyberattacks against Sony’s PlayStation Network that resulted in the theft of information from more than 100 million customers.
Police also accused the men of launching cyber-assaults on Spanish banks BBVA and Bankia and Italian energy group Enel SpA.
The arrests are the first in Spain against alleged members of Anonymous, following the detention of others in the US and Britain. Police said all three men were Spanish and in their 30s. One worked in the merchant navy.
Anonymous is a loose grouping of self-proclaimed hacktivists who frequently try to shut down the Web sites of businesses and other organizations that it opposes.
Its members describe themselves as Internet freedom fighters and have previously brought down Web sites of the Church of Scientology, as well as Amazon.com Inc, MasterCard Inc and others they saw as hostile to WikiLeaks and its frontman Julian Assange.
The group is currently -sponsoring attacks to shut down Turkish government Web sites in a protest against Internet censorship. Attempts to reach the group by e-mail were not immediately successful.
To date, the group has not been linked to crimes for financial profit.
Spanish police said the accused, who were arrested in Almeria, Barcelona and Alicante, were guilty of coordinated computer hacking attacks from a server set up in a house in Gijon in the north of Spain.
The police said members of Anonymous had also hacked government sites in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.
“They are structured in independent cells and make thousands of simultaneous attacks using infected ‘zombie’ computers worldwide. This is why NATO considers them a threat to the military alliance,” the police said in a statement. “They are even capable of collapsing a country’s administrative structure.”