The international nature of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against the websites of companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal may be make it difficult if not impossible to prosecute the pro-WikiLeaks members of the group Anonymous.
The level of effort and resources needed to gather evidence, identify suspects, issue warrants, carry out arrests, and arrange extraditions before prosecution can even occur may make the likelihood multiple legal actions in the matter cost prohibitive.
It may also mean that efforts will be focused mostly on the Anonymous leadership hierarchy, while lesser participants escape repercussions.
Another obstacle might arise in applying the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to the DDoS attacks.
Although the language in the statute is extremely broad, the government would still need to shoe that:
- there was a transmission of a program, information, code, or command that intentionally causes damage without authorization, to a protected computer, and that
- the act caused losses in excess of $5,000 over a one-year period
Public relations spin efforts by the companies targeted had them downplaying the impact of the DDoS attacks, which may be presented as evidence by the defense in the event charges are pursued.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated last week that he was "looking into" the viability of prosecutions.
Former Justice Department Attorney David Goldstone said, "the government may give it less of a priority. They may treat it as graffiti."