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Three more charged in Anonymous hack spree probe

Trans-Atlantic sweep continues

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Federal prosecutors filed charges against three men accused of carrying out website attacks as part of an extended campaign linked to the Anonymous hacking crew.

Cody Kretsinger, 23, of Phoenix was accused of participating in a hack of the Sony Pictures website that exposed the names, email addresses, and passwords of thousands of consumers. He was arrested Thursday morning on charges of conspiracy and the unauthorized impairment of a protected computer. He was scheduled to appear in federal court later in the day.

According to an indictment unsealed in Los Angeles federal court after his arrest, Kretsinger was a member of LulzSec, which is said to be a splinter group of Anonymous. The document alleged that from May 27 to June 2, he and his colleagues made “tens of thousands of requests for confidential data” using SQL injection techniques, which pass powerful database commands to a website's backend system by including them in search boxes and other input fields of poorly secured websites.

Once the gang obtained the data, they posted it online and bragged about the exploit over Twitter, prosecutors said. To cover his tracks, Kretsinger allegedly used the hidemyass.com proxy service, and he completely wiped his hard drive afterward.

Kretsinger's arrest came the same day that federal officials charged two men with participating in distributed denial-of-service attacks on websites belonging to the County of Santa Cruz, about an hour's drive south of San Francisco. According to an indictment filed in federal court in San Jose, California, Christoper Doyon and Joshua John Covelli carried out the attacks in retribution for the enforcement of a law that prohibited the overnight camping within the Santa Cruz city limits. The December 2 DDoS assault took the website offline, prosecutors said.

Covelli, 26, of Fairborn, Ohio, was one of 13 people previously charged with participating in the Anonymous-organized DDoS of PayPal in December. His next court appearance is scheduled for November 1.

Christopher Doyon, 47, of Mountain View, California, and Covelli, allegedly were members of the People's Liberation Front, another Anonymous splinter group. They allegedly used the High Orbit Ion Cannon to bombard the Santa Cruz County servers with more traffic than they could handle, causing damages exceeding $5,000.

In the past few months, dozens of people in North America and Europe have been snared in a trans-Atlantic investigation into a string of attacks attributed to LulzSec and Anonymous. Earlier this month, UK police charged three men and a 17-year-old for various computer offenses, including DDoS attacks in December on PayPal, Amazon, MasterCard, Bank of America, and Visa.

In July, US authorities charged 13 people with participating in the same DDoS campaign, which was waged to punish companies for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks. Additional arrests have taken place in Spain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere.

Over the past 18 months, Anonymous and its offshoots have engaged in a DDoS and hacking spree that has also hit the Public Broadcasting System, Arizona law enforcement officers and others.

If convicted, Kretsinger faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Doyon and Covelli face as much as 15 years. ®

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