Anonymous hackers plead guilty to Paypal shutdown

13 people have pleaded guilty to hacking charges in the US that authorities claim were organised by the notorious Anonymous collective.

All the defendants admitted to playing an active role in protests against Paypal organised by Anonymous in December 2010 that came about after the payment service severed ties with Wikileaks.

The defendants will be served with minor misdemeanour charges as they all pleaded guilty and will face no further action as long as they don’t cause any more problems for the authorities.

Paypal had urged leniency by prosecutors, according to the BBC, and lawyers for the defendants argued that the accused were taking part in protests that are protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment that protects free speech.

On the other side of the table the US Department of Justice [DOJ] charged them with intentionally damaging a protected computer.

Anonymous’ attack, codenamed “Operation Paycheck”, targeted a variety of payment services include credit card firms Mastercard and Visa as well as Paypal with all of those targeted because they stopped processing payments for Wikileaks.

The payment service stopped working with Wikileaks after it published 700,000 classified diplomatic cables and documents.

The unlucky 13 that pleaded guilty here are just the latest in a long line of Anonymous affiliated hackers to be sentenced following the “Operation Payback” attacks and they got off lightly in comparison.

Two British hackers were sentenced in January of this year in relation to the attacks with 22-year-old Christopher Whitehead getting 18 months behind bars and 28-year-old Ashley Rhodes receiving seven months in relation to the same attacks.

It’s estimated the attacks caused around $5.5 million [£3.5 million] worth of damage to the payment services that were affected as well as widespread disruption as the firms attempted to get to the root of the distributed denial of service [DDoS] attack.