Two men who allegedly claim to be members of the hacking and activist collective Anonymous have been arrested in Australia, charged with stealing data after hacking into the computer networks of governments and IT firms.
Arrests were made after Australian Federal Police (AFP) searched the homes of the two men, an 18-year old from Penrith, New South Wales and a 40-year old from Scarborough, Western Australia.
The men had several hard drives and other computer equipment seized by police, who will analyse the information stored on them. It is thought the process will take a number of weeks due to the amount of data that needs to be assessed.
They have been arrested over claims that servers hosting Australian and Indonesian government websites were hacked. The two men – whom the authorities allege know one another – have also been charged with compromising the systems of Australian internet and IT services providers Melbourne IT and Netspeed ISP.
Police have charged the 40-year old man with aiding the unauthorised modification of Melbourne IT Ltd's computer network in Brisbane to cause impairment and unauthorised modification of Indonesian government web servers to cause impairment. He is scheduled to appear in Perth Central Local Court on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the 18-year old has been charged with unauthorised modification of data to Netspeed ISP in Canberra to cause impairment, and unauthorised access to and modification of restricted data belonging to the ACT Long Service Leave Board in Canberra. He is due to appear in Sydney Central Local Court on Thursday.
Australian police say the two men claim to be members of Anonymous and have been targeting government and corporate networks for the past two years. It is alleged their actions have resulted in theft of personal data, defacement of websites and distributed denial of service attacks, causing targets to go offline.
"These acts can cause serious disruption to government and business networks, which in turn can be catastrophic for people who rely on these networks to run their small business or administer their entitlements or personal finances," said the AFP's national manager of high-tech crime operations, Tim Morris.
"The impairment or disruption of communications to or from computer networks is a criminal act and can have serious consequences – it is not harmless fun," he added.