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Police probe British Anonymous activists

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The Metropolitan Police has confirmed it is investigating the activities of Anonymous, the online activism movement recently under the spotlight for its DDoS attacks in support of WikiLeaks.

The probe was launched several months ago, apparently following complaints about Anonymous' attacks on the website of ACS:Law, a London legal firm controversially targeting file-sharers. It also targeted the BPI, the record industry trade body.

"Earlier this year the Metropolitan Police Service received a number of allegations of 'denial-of-service' cyber attacks against several companies by a group calling themselves Anonymous," the Met said in a statement.

"The Metropolitan Police Service is monitoring the situation relating to recent and ongoing denial of service attacks and will investigate where appropriate."

Anonymous attacked ACS:Law in September as part of its "Operation: Payback Is A Bitch", which targeted organisations connected to the music and film industries in Europe and the US.

Further attacks were launched after the firm's founder, Andrew Crossley, mocked the group's initial DDoS in an interview with The Register. Disastrous efforts to restore the website then publicly exposed confidential company files, including the personal data of ACS:Law's targets. The Information Commissioner is investigating the apparent breach of the Data Protection Act by the firm.

Meanwhile, the Met's investigation of the incident – and the more recent WikiLeaks-related attacks on the websites of Visa, Mastercard and PayPal – could have serious consequences for British members of Anonymous. Mounting a DDoS attack is an offence under the Computer Misuse Act, and carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Dutch computer crime police, who have close links to the Met's Police Central e-Crime Unit, have already arrested two alleged participants. Anonymous' LOIC tool, which coordinates its DDoS attacks, makes no attempt to disguise the sources of the bombardment of requests it fires at target servers.

A Greek web designer has also been detained after he was traced from an Anonymous press release. ®

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