Anonymous 'spokesman' Coldblood is believed to be among the five arrested yesterday by UK police in connection with DDoS attacks against Visa, PayPal and others, in support of whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks.
British police yesterday swooped on homes (opens in new tab) in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London. Five males were arrested, aged 15, 16, 19, 20 and 26.
All of those held are believed to be members of Anonymous, the loose-knit online collective behind a string of cyber-attacks last year on the websites of businesses including Amazon, PayPal, Visa.
The five are reported to have just been granted bail.
An attack on Visa's rival, MasterCard, left some shoppers unable to use their credit cards on one of the busiest shopping days in the run-up to Christmas.
A report in the Times newspaper (behind a paywall) names one of those arrested as Coldblood. The news had earlier been broken by Times correspondent Alexi Mostrous, in a post (opens in new tab) on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Coldblood - real name Chris Wood, 20 - appeared as a self-styled spokesperson for Anonymous,on BBC Radio 4, telling the Today programme: "I see this becoming a war. We're trying to keep the internet free and open for everyone."
Wood faces possible charges under the Computer Misuse Act (1990). If convicted, he could be sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and a fine of up to £5,000.
The attacks that prompted yesterday's arrests came after the targeted companies withdrew services from whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks in the wake of the site's publication of more than 250,000 secret cables (opens in new tab) sent by US diplomats.
The attacks were carried out using a piece of software called the Low-Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), which enables users to join a voluntary botnet, bombarding the servers of a target site with requests for data in the hope of overwhelming them.
LOIC is freely available over the internet, and can be used by novice users - leading to fears among Anonymous supporters that inexperienced users, who may not be as adept at cloaking their identities, may be at risk from police investigations.
Anonymous last night issued an open letter to the UK government (opens in new tab), responding to the arrests.
"It has come to our attention that you deemed it necessary to arrest five of our fellow anons for their participation in the DDoS attacks against PayPal, Mastercard, and others, that have been carried out in our name in retaliation for those organisations' actions against WikiLeaks," the letter said.
Anonymous issued a warning that any attempt to charge the five with offences under the Computer Misuse Act would be "a sad mistake" that would be regarded as a "declaration of war".
Anonymous reiterated its claim that cyberspace is the new battleground for political dissent, referring to the role played by technology in recent protests across Tunisia and Egypt.
"As traditional means of protest (peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins, the blocking of a crossroads or the picketing of a factory fence) have slowly turned into nothing but an empty, ritualised gesture of discontent over the course of the last century", continues the letter, "people have been anxiously searching for new ways to pressure politicians and give voice to public demands in a manner that might actually be able to change things for the better.
In an accompanying statement, Anonymous declared as "unfair and hypocritical" authorities' lack of response to DDoS attacks mounted against WikiLeaks, noting:
"We have noted that similar attacks have also been carried out against Wikileaks itself, yet so far, nobody has been arrested in connection with these attacks, nor are there even any signs of an investigation into this issue at all."
Declaring that the statement was a "serious warning from the citizens of the world", Anonymous vowed: "We will not rest until our fellow anon protesters have been released."