Feds execute search warrants in cyber-attack probe

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FBI agents on Thursday executed more than 40 search warrants throughout the United States as part of an ongoing federal investigation into recent coordinated cyber attacks against major companies and organizations.

A group calling itself “Anonymous” has claimed responsibility for the attacks in the U.S. and abroad, saying they conducted them in protest of the companies’ and organizations’ actions. The “Anonymous” group had backed WikiLeaks after it published classified U.S. communications. The FBI said the attacks were facilitated by software tools the group makes available for free download on the Internet. The victims included several major U.S. companies spread across a variety of industries.

According to the FBI, the attacks, known as the “distributed denial of service,” or DDoS, are facilitated by software tools designed to damage a computer network’s ability to function by flooding it with useless commands and information, thereby denying service to legitimate users. The FBI has been investigating cyber attacks on a number of U.S. companies, including Amazon and those targeted by hackers.

At the same time, law enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom, including the Metropolitan Police Service, executed additional search warrants and arrested five people for their alleged role in the attacks. There were no arrests reported in the United States.

The FBI is reminding the public that facilitating or conducting a DDoS attack is illegal, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, as well as exposing participants to significant civil liability. The FBI said it is working closely with its international law enforcement partners and others to mitigate these threats.

Authorities in the Netherlands, Germany and France have also taken their own investigative and enforcement actions. The National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance (NCFTA) also is providing assistance. The NCFTA is a public-private partnership that works to identify, mitigate and neutralize cyber crime. It has advised that software from any untrustworthy source represents a potential threat and should be removed. Major Internet security (anti-virus) software providers have instituted updates so they will detect the so-called “Low Orbit Ion Canon” tools used in these attacks.

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