Anonymous Defendants Plead Guilty in PayPal Cyber-Attack

Thirteen people involved in a 2010 cyber-attack on EBay Inc.’s PayPal unit pleaded guilty to charges they sought to damage computers.

The hacker group Anonymous took credit for the attack, saying it was retaliation for the online payment company suspending the account of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website.

“Citing violations of the PayPal terms of service, and in response to WikiLeaks’ release of the classified cables, PayPal suspended WikiLeaks’ accounts such that WikiLeaks could no longer receive donations via PayPal,” U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco said yesterday in a statement. “WikiLeaks’ website declared that PayPal’s action ‘tried to economically strangle WikiLeaks.’”

Ten of the defendants pleaded guilty Dec. 5 in federal court in San Jose, California, to one count of conspiracy and one count of damaging a protected computer, while the remaining three pleaded guilty to one count each related to the attack, according to the statement.

The charges stem from “denial of service attacks” that saturate targeted computers with communication requests so service is denied to legitimate users. Anonymous was described by prosecutors as an online collective of individuals associated with collaborative hacking attacks motivated by political and social goals.

Michael Whelan, a lawyer for one of the defendants, Christopher Cooper, declined to comment on the plea.

U.S. District Judge D. Lowell Jensen is scheduled to sentence the defendants starting in November, according to the statement.

EBay, based in San Jose, is the world’s largest online marketplace.

The case is U.S. v. Cooper, 11-00471, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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