Anonymous hackers admit involvement in 2010 PayPal cyber attack


Thriteen members of hacker collective Anonymous have pleaded guilty to taking part in a cyber attack on PayPal. The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack took place in 2010.

The accused admitted the attack and said it was in retaliation to PayPal's decision to suspend the account of anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. "Citing violations of the PayPal terms of service, and in response to WikiLeaks' release of the classified cables, PayPal suspended WikiLeaks' accounts such that WikiLeaks could no longer receive donations via PayPal," US Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco said, in a statement.

"WikiLeaks' website declared that PayPal's action tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks.'" Of the 11 men and two women, ten of them pleaded guilty in federal court in San Jose, California, to one count of conspiracy and one count of damaging a protected computer. These ten will be allowed to change that to a misdemeanour next year if they do not violate terms of their agreement before sentencing. The remaining three pleaded guilty to one count each related to the attack, according to the statement released by the US Department of Justice.

WikiLeaks' website declared that PayPal's action tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks.'

All thirteen of the defendants have been released on bond, with the sentencing hearing scheduled to take place on 4 December in San Jose.

In a Huffington Post blog post earlier this month, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar said prosecutors should look at the actual damage caused by each defendant and it would be unjust to hold the defendants "accountable for the actions of a thousand (or however many other people were part of the same attack). "Prosecutors should also look at the circumstances of each defendant, and examine whether or not they were aware of the excessive impact their actions might have," said Omidyar.

"They may have believed they were participating in a legitimate online protest and [were] not aware of the multiplicative effect of the tools they were installing." Omidyar stressed the views he gave were his own and not of eBay, which owns PayPal.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.