FBI Investigating Pro-WikiLeaks 'Operation Payback'
Earlier this month, a group of pro-WikiLeaks hackers known as Anonymous began launching a series of coordinated cyber-attacks against companies that had severed ties with Julian Assange's whistleblowing organization, including MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal. The so-called 'Operation Payback' effectively shut down sites for prolonged periods of time, and added a new wrinkle to the ongoing international controversy surrounding WikiLeaks. And, as it turns out, the FBI has been investigating the campaign for a few weeks, now.
An FBI affidavit obtained by the Smoking Gun shows that the bureau began investigating Anonymous shortly after the group successfully shut down PayPal for several hours. On December 9th, investigators provided FBI authorities with eight IP addresses that were hosting Internet Relay Chat (IRC) sites. Anonymous members allegedly used the IRC platforms to organize the coordinated denial of service attacks. According to investigators, the attacks on PayPal constituted a felony violation of a federal law "unauthorized and knowing transmission of code or commands resulting in intentional damage to a protected computer system."
So far, the bureau has targeted at least two of the eight IP addresses connected to the PayPal attack. One eventually led them to a Dallas-based firm called Tailor Made Services, which specializes in "dedicated server hosting." On December 16th, agents raided the firm, and copied two hard drives from the server. The affidavit, however, does not detail what they found on the drives, nor does it specify whether the investigation led to a suspect. The second IP address led to a California-based Web hosting firm called Hurricane Electric. That investigation, however, is still in progress.