FBI agents arrested 16 people suspected of belonging to the notorious Anonymous hacker ring, according to the Department of Justice Tuesday.
The operation was spread across nine states and focused on 14 people who were allegedly involved in a cyber attack on PayPal in December, in apparent retaliation for the site’s termination of a donation account for Wikileaks following the release of thousands of confidential US State Department cables.
Two other suspects in other cyber-related crimes were also arrested.
In an indictment unsealed Tuesday in the federal court in San Jose, California, the alleged Anonymous members were charged with various counts of conspiracy and intentional damage to a protected computer.
The sweep took place a day after Anonymous and its ally LulzSec hacked the website of the British newspaper the Sun and promised to release a trove of emails from its owner, media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
The group has been linked with numerous denial-of-service attacks, which incapacitate websites by bombarding them with queries from networks of hijacked computers.
Monsanto, the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the City of Orlando, Sony, Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, as well as government sites in Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia have all been among their recent victims.
Alleged Anonymous members have also been arrested in Britain and Holland.