Scotland Yard Has Been After Anonymous for Months

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Scotland Yard has confirmed it has been investigating Anonymous since before the WikiLeaks wars broke out

The Metropolitan police has been investigating Internet vigilante group Anonymous, since well before its current online reprisals against companies not supporting WikiLeaks.

“Earlier this year, the Metropolitan police service received a number of allegations of denial of service cyber attacks againat several companies by a group calling itself Anonymous,” a police spokesman told eWEEK Europe UK. “We are investigating these criminal allegations and our investigation is ongoing.”

“The Metropolitan police service is monitoring the situation in relation to recent and ongoing denial of service attacks, and will investigate where appropriate,” the spokesman added.

Cyber Unit Involved

The spokesman also confirmed to eWEEK Europe UK that the investigation is being conducted by Scotland Yard’s ‘specialist crime directorate’, which includes the Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit (PceU).

Earlier this year, Metropolitan Police commissioner Paul Stephenson revealed a worrying lack of resources at PceU, and admitted that it was only able to deal with a tenth of the known criminals that regularly use computers for illegal purposes.

Scotland Yard’s reference to the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks by Anonymous earlier this year, could refer to when that group of hackers’ Operation Payback hit the law firm Gallant Macmillan and its client, Ministry of Sound in October. Both firms were targeted after they sued for the details of PlusNet subscribers who may have downloaded music illegally.

In November Anonymous appears to have taken down the website of the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) as revenge for the legal action against The Pirate Bay. The three founders of The Pirate Bay lost their appeals in a copyright infringement case in late November.

Wikileaks Furore

All this has paled into insigificance as a fierce cyber war was triggered by WikiLeaks supporters (including Anonymous) that brought down the websites of PayPal and Mastercard after they stopped processing payments for the whistleblowing site after it published leaks of classified US diplomatic cables.

According to national security advisor Sir Peter Ricketts, there are fears that WikiLeaks supporters may attack government sites, such as The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC), following the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the UK, on a European arrest warrant issued in Sweden.

Assange has been granted bail but remains in prison pending an appeal hearing against the bail, which is due today.

Assange has distanced himself from these attacks, and supporters have extended their attacks from websites to a rather old fashioned alternative, namely the fax machines of the companies who have withdrawn services from Wikileaks.