|Anonymous attacked Turkish government websites to protest against internet censorship in the country [Reuters]
Spanish police have arrested three suspected members of the so-called Anonymous group on charges of cyber attacks against targets including Sony Corp's PlayStation Network, governments, businesses and banks.
Police on Friday alleged the three arrested 'hacktivists' had been involved in recent attacks on the Japanese electronics manufacturer, Spanish banks BBVA and Bankia and Italian energy group Enel SpA.
The arrests are the first in Spain against members of Anonymous following similar legal proceedings in the US and Britain.
Police said all three men were Spanish and in their 30s. One worked in the merchant navy.
The suspected Anonymous members, who were arrested in Almeria, Barcelona and Alicante, were guilty of co-ordinated computer hacking attacks from a server set up in a house in Gijon in the north of Spain, the Spanish police said.
Sony Playstation hacked
Sony shocked gamers in late April by revealing that hackers had stolen personal information from the accounts of 77 million users of its online video-games network.
A week later, it said hackers had stolen data from another 25 million users of its computer games system.
Sony's PlayStation Network was crippled for a month as the company tried to find and fix the problem.
Anonymous, a loose grouping of activists which has carried out cyber attacks on organisations including Sony in the past, said at the time it was not responsible for those attacks and had no interest in stealing credit-card details.
Its members describe themselves as internet freedom fighters and have previously brought down the websites of the Church of Scientology, Amazon, Mastercard and others they saw as hostile to WikiLeaks.
The group's current targets include the Turkish government, in a protest against internet censorship.
A string of Turkish government websites have been compromised by members of Anonymous, Turkish authorities said.
Access to Turkey's telecoms authority website, identified as a main target in the group's 'Operation Turkey' campaign against a planned new online filtering system, was blocked as planned at 1500GMT on Thursday.
In a posting on its official website, Anonymous issued a statement pledging to fight what it said was internet censorship there.
The new filtering system, due to be implemented on August 22, mandates that all online users must sign up for one of four filters - domestic, family, children or standard.
The 'hactivist' group said the filtering system would make it possible to keep records of people's internet activity.
Mark Rasch, former head of the US justice department's cyber crimes division, said he would not be surprised if Anonymous turned out to be linked to the Sony data breach given that they had publicly criticised the company over its intellectual property rights.
"It was a logical place to look," he said.
The Spanish police said members of Anonymous, known for wearing Guy Fawkes masks made popular by the graphic novel "V for Vendetta", had also hacked government sites in Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.
"They are structured in independent cells and make thousands of simultaneous attacks using infected 'zombie' computers worldwide. This is why NATO considers them a threat to the military alliance," the police said in a statement.
"They are even capable of collapsing a country's administrative structure." The police did not rule out further arrests.