Twelve individuals were detained by Romanian authorities on Tuesday, suspected of being members of a cybercriminal group that hacked into the websites of various Romanian and foreign public institutions and government agencies.
Prosecutors from the Romanian Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT) have dismantled a criminal group consisting of 14 members, who engaged in cybercriminal activities that included accessing computer systems without authorization, copying confidential data stored on them and publishing the captured information online, DIICOT said on Tuesday.
Supported by the Romanian Police forces and the Romanian Gendarmerie, the DIICOT prosecutors executed 12 search warrants at residential addresses in 10 different cities and detained 12 suspects. The detained individuals will be taken to DIICOT's central office in Bucharest for questioning.
The twelve suspects are believed to be associated with the Anonymous hacktivist collective, local media reports said. However, DIICOT declined to confirm this.
DIICOT believes that the leader of the criminal group is a 24-year-old man named Gabriel Baleasa from the city of Piatra Neamt, who used the online aliases lulzcart, anonsboat, anonsweb and cartman.
During the past few months, several hackers who claimed affiliation with Anonymous, including one using the lulzcart Twitter handle -- which is now disabled -- have taken credit for hacking into the websites of several Romanian public institutions, including the Bucharest City Hall, the Romanian Social Services and Child Protection Agency, the Romanian National Institute of Research and Development for Optoelectronics and the Romanian National Institute of Physics and Nuclear Engineering.
Baleasa is believed to have created the hacker group together with two men named Fabian Gabor and Mihai Emil Picos, with other members joining at a later time, DIICOT said.
The hackers allegedly broke into 29 websites by using publicly available SQL injection tools like Havij and SQL Map. In the majority of cases, they defaced the compromised websites by inserting images and messages that promoted their group, DIICOT said.
The hackers also copied confidential information found on the servers hosting those websites and published that information online as proof of their success. Their activities resulted in significant financial losses associated with data recovery and the implementation of new security measures, DIICOT said.
The 12 suspects are being investigated for criminal offenses that include obtaining unauthorized access to a computer system by circumventing security measures with the intention of accessing confidential data, modifying electronic data without authorization and transferring data from a computer system without authorization.
The Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI) -- the country's domestic intelligence service-- has provided the investigation with technical and informational support, DIICOT said.