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Hacker Group Anonymous Targeted in Switzerland Police Raid

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July 7 (Bloomberg) -- Police in Switzerland raided the home of a man suspected of carrying out computer attacks against Italian websites for the hacker group Anonymous, a Swiss prosecution spokesman said today.

“They seized lots of computer material,” Valerio Snider, spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Lugano, Switzerland, said by telephone.

Officers on July 5 searched the address of a 26-year-old foreign national in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland at the request of Italy’s state prosecutor, the Swiss federal police said in an e-mailed statement.

Anonymous gained attention after targeting websites including EBay Inc.’s Paypal and Visa Inc., as well as other companies deemed hostile to Wikileaks, which posts secret documents on its website. Investigators began tracking the hacker group in January and have identified “key figures” in its Italian cell, Italy’s State Police said in a separate statement.

The Italian man whose Swiss home was raided is “suspected of being part of this hacker group,” Snider said, adding that the man wasn’t arrested. Police declined to name him.

Italian police have carried out more than 32 searches and charged three suspects, including a minor, who weren’t detained, said Tomasso Palumbo, head of Italy’s National Cyber Center for Critical Infrastructure Protection, who is leading the hacking investigation. The Swiss suspect is thought to be a “promoter” of Anonymous and not a leader of the organization, Palumbo said.

ENI, Mediaset

The man, known online by the pseudonym Phre, was the “strategist of all the group’s offensive activity,” Italian police said.

Anonymous’s Italian targets in the last six months included ENI SpA, Europe’s fifth-biggest oil company, as well as Enel SpA, an electricity supplier, and Mediaset SpA, a broadcaster 39 percent-owned by the family holding company of Italian Prime Minister Sivio Berlusconi, Italian police said. Both chambers of the country’s parliament also had their websites hacked.

“The damage caused so far to institutions and companies has been enormous,” Palumbo said. “Once hit by an attack, they cannot provide services to users, and a return to normal functionality of the website often takes many hours and comes at considerable cost.”

The number of suspects charged is likely to rise, Italian police said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Leigh Baldwin in Zurich at lbaldwin3@bloomberg.net; Paul Verschuur in Zurich at pverschuur@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Angela Cullen at acullen8@bloomberg.net

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