Suspected members of the hacktivist collective Anonymous have been indicted in connection to cyberattacks on targets including Visa, Mastercard and the MPAA as part of "Operation Payback."
The indictment, unsealed on Thursday, indicts 13 alleged members of Anonymous with organizing denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and closing down the websites of companies including the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Visa, Mastercard and the Bank of America.
Dubbed "Operation Payback," the hacktivist campaign took place between September 2010 and January 2011. The 13 are accused of taking down services by using the Low-Orbit Ion Cannon application, which caused "significant damage" to victims.
According to the indictment, the 13 "planned and executed a coordinated series of cyber-attacks against victim websites by flooding those websites with a huge volume of irrelevant Internet traffic with the intent to make the resources on the websites unavailable to customers and users of those websites."
Another court filing (.pdf) shows that the U.S. government has requested a warrant for the arrest of all of the suspects, who range in age from 25 to over sixty.
Anonymous claimed that the operation targeted those who "opposed its stated philosophy of making all information free for all, including information protected by copyright laws or national security considerations.”
Starting as a protest against copyright, targets were selected based on attitudes to piracy, copyright and the flow of information -- in particular, those who opposed sites including The Pirate Bay were selected.
In a press release, the hacktivist collective said:
"We will prevent users to access said enemy sites and we will keep them down for as long as we can ... Anonymous is tired of corporate interests controlling the internet and silencing the people's rights to spread information, but more importantly, the right to share with one another."
The hacktivist group have taken responsibility for a number of campaigns and attacks -- often organized and promoted over social media -- over the past few years. Campaigns have touched upon copyright, U.S. banking reform, political issues abroad and battles against censorship, among others.