Five bailed in computer hacking investigation

Five people arrested on suspicion of computer hacking linked to attacks on companies perceived as enemies of whistleblowing website WikiLeaks have been given bail, police said today.

Two boys, aged 15 and 16, were held yesterday along with three men, aged 19, 20 and 26, in co-ordinated arrests.

The Metropolitan Police said they were in relation to recent and ongoing "distributed denial of service" attacks (DDoS) against several companies by an online group calling themselves Anonymous.

The investigation is being carried out in conjunction with international law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US.

The five were held at addresses in the West Midlands, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and London.

The teenagers have to return to police on April 13 and the two older men the next day.

Anonymous made the headlines last year when the group launched "Operation Payback", attacking companies which withdrew services from WikiLeaks.

The "hacktivists" targeted such brands as Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.

The DDoS attacks use software designed to illegally access a computer and can be done with minimal knowledge.

Hacktivists flood their target's server so it is overloaded and unavailable for legitimate users.

Under UK law it is a criminal offence to carry out "any unauthorised act in relation to a computer" where the person "has the requisite intent and the requisite knowledge" to do it.

The maximum penalty is 10 years behind bars and a £5,000 fine.