Spain arrests 3 "hacktivists" for attacks on Sony, banks

Sony's executive vice president, Kazuo Hirai (center) and company executives Shiro Kambe (left), and Shinji Hasejima (right), bow in apology for the theft of personal data from the Playstation Network.

Spanish police have arrested three hackers from the vigilante group Anonymous for online attacks on Sony PlayStation and the governments of Egypt, Libya and Iran among others.

The three "hacktivists" are accused of hacking the Sony PlayStation network, as well as the sites of major banks BBVA and Bankia, Italian power company Enel, and the governments of Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand, Agence France-Presse reports.

Police swooped on the three — suspected leaders of the so-called "hacktivist" group that breaks into computers online to pursue an agenda of political activism — in Barcelona, northeastern Spain, Valencia in the east and Almeria in the southeast.

A hacker group calling itself LulzSec earlier this month claimed to have broken into a Sony company network, stealing the personal data of more than a million users, including passwords and email addresses, in the latest of a string of attacks on the Japanese company. The group said it had hacked the servers that run SonyPictures.com, part of Sony’s movie and television operations.

Sony was forced to suspend its popular online gaming systems PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment after an April break-in — one of the biggest data breaches since the advent of the Internet — compromised more than 100 million user accounts.

Sony only this month restored PlayStation Network services everywhere except Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.

The company estimates the hacker attacks will cost it at least 14 billion yen, or $173 million, in damages, "including information technology spending, legal costs, lower sales and free offers to lure back customers," the New York Times writes.

It is unclear if the three suspects arrested in Spain were part of those attacks.

One of the suspects, aged 31, had a server at his home in the northern city of Gijon to run attacks on government, financial and business sites worldwide, police said.

AFP reports:

Anonymous is organized in independent cells which coordinate to launch simultaneous "denial of service" attacks on Internet sites.

In these attacks, web servers crash under the sheer volume of connections made by "zombie" computers worldwide that have been infected with a virus and enslaved to carry out the hackers' commands.