A US jury has indicted 13 members of the internet hacking group Anonymous accused of launching global cyber-attacks.
The indictment filed in federal court on Thursday said the attacks included against targets that refused to process payments for WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website founded by Julian Assange.
The US-based members of Anonymous indicted have been accused of zeroing in on the computers of governments, trade associations, law firms, financial institutions and other institutions that oppose the philosophy of Anonymous to make all information free for everyone, regardless of copyright laws or national security considerations.
The indictment said that from September 2010 to January 2011, Anonymous members participated in a campaign using software known as the Low Orbit Ion Cannon to flood websites with huge amounts of internet traffic to shut them down.
They used what are known as denial-of-service attacks to overwhelm websites and make them inaccessible, starting with the website of the US film industry lobbying group, the Motion Picture Association of America, the indictment said.
"This will be a calm, coordinated display of blood. We will not be merciful," said one set of instructions for the attacks quoted in the indictment.
Those charged ranged in age from 21 to 65 and lived in 13 different US states.
Prosecutors allege that in December 2010, the conspirators discussed possible targets related to WikiLeaks, which received more than 700,000 documents and some battlefield video from Army Private Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, the largest-volume leak of classified material in US history.
Anonymous focused on websites that were either critical of WikiLeaks or had refused to process payments for WikiLeaks, among them MasterCard and Visa. The targets even included the Swedish prosecutor's office, in connection with arrest warrants for sexual crimes issued for Assange.
Members of Anonymous launched what they called Operation Payback, an attack on the Motion Picture Industry of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the British Phonographic Industry and others.
The attacks were retaliation against the discontinuation of The Pirate Bay, a Sweden-based file sharing website devoted to the illegal downloading of copyrighted material.
According to the indictment, Anonymous then moved against others such as ACS: Law, a British law firm helping clients to protect intellectual property rights; Anti-piracy.nl, the website for the BREIN foundation, a Dutch trade association fighting intellectual property theft; and the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft.
The website of the US Copyright Office at the Library of Congress was the subject of a daily cyber-attack.
The 13 members of Anonymous were charged with conspiring to intentionally cause damage to protected computers.