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Interpol arrests suspected 'Anonymous' hackers

By Hilary Whiteman, CNN
updated 7:19 AM EST, Wed February 29, 2012
A masked member of 'Anonymous' hacks the French presidential Elysee Palace website in this photo dated January 20, 2012.
A masked member of 'Anonymous' hacks the French presidential Elysee Palace website in this photo dated January 20, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Interpol website suffers suspected attack after "Anonymous" arrests
  • 25 suspected members of the hacking group arrested worldwide
  • Four arrested in Spain including a 16-year-old girl
  • Spanish police website also down after statement issued

(CNN) -- Police in Europe and South America have arrested 25 alleged members of the "Anonymous" hacking group, Interpol said, amid a suspected attack on its own website by the group's supporters.

The arrests include four people in Spain, 10 in Argentina, six in Chile and five in Colombia as part of a worldwide sweep carried out as part of Interpol operation "Exposure."

Interpol did not immediately announce charges against the 25.

After Interpol announced the attacks, its website failed to load, a fact acknowledged by Anonymous on Twitter with the message "interpol.int DOWN."

Who or what is Anonymous?

The Spanish police website also failed to load after it announced police had arrested four people in the country as part of the international action.

Suspected 'Anonymous' hackers arrested
FBI, Scotland Yard hacked
FBI & Scotland Yard phone call hacked
'Hacktivist' group Anonymous strikes back

Spanish police said the four suspects were accused of carrying out denial of service attacks, defacing the websites of political parties, institutions and companies, as well as publishing personal information relating to high-profile figures.

One of those arrested was a 16-year-old girl, who was allegedly part of international "sector 404," a hacking group which is believed to be linked to the attacks claimed by Anonymous. Police said the girl had been released to the custody of her parents.

Two of the others had been detained, while the third was released on bail, police said.

Anonymous made headlines in 2010 when it carried out distributed denial of service or DDOS attacks targeting MasterCard, Visa and PayPal websites.

DDOS is a kind of network stress test in which each attacker gives consent to have his or her computer linked to a bot net. The force of all those computers working together, focused on one site, overwhelms the targeted site's server and consequently disrupts or takes the site down.

At the time, Anonymous claimed that it was lashing out at the corporations because they had stopped doing business with WikiLeaks, the publisher huge tranches of confidential information under the leadership of founder and editor Julian Assange.

Since then, the group has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks, notably claiming that it attacked government websites in Tunisia and Egypt as a way to show support for protesters during Arab Spring uprisings.

A video -- laced with Anonymous' typical computer-voiceover -- appeared online during the January 2011 revolution. It threatened Egyptian authorities if they attempted to censor Internet access and other freedoms.

"Anonymous is you. You will not be denied your right to free speech, free press, free association and your universal right to freely access information both in real life and on the Internet," the voice said.

Anonymous had a hand in organizing and agitating in the Occupy movement throughout 2011. Protesters have been seen at Occupy demonstrations across the globe wearing Anonymous' distinctive Guy Fawkes mask.

This year, the group claimed to have posted an internal FBI conference call discussing investigations into Anonymous. It also posted e-mails that it claimed were from an adviser to the Syrian president, suggesting how Bashar al-Assad could downplay violence in the country when he was interviewed by Barbara Walters last summer.

CNN's Ashley Fantz contributed to this report

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