Spanish police have apprehended three people allegedly connected to the Sony PlayStation Network security attacks, among other hacks. The three thirty-something men are the leaders of the local branch of Anonymous, a global network of hundreds of "hacktivists" organized by cells formed in different countries.

One of the suspects was found with a server in his home (in Gijón) that was specifically used to breach the Sony PlayStation online gaming store. The National Police also confirmed that the same computer was used in the hack against two Spanish banks, BBVA and Bankia, the Italian energy company Enel, as well as government sites in Spain, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Iran, Chile, Colombia and New Zealand.

The other two men were apprehended in Barcelona and Valencia.

Police analysis of over two million lines of chat logs, in addition to webpage histories, began last October. The officials, which identified the Spanish leaders "with the capacity to make decisions and direct attacks," says the group used software called LOIC to flood websites with denial-of-service attacks and crash them.

Anonymous also attracted attention last December for breaching PayPal, Visa and other companies it perceived as hostile to WikiLeaks (the infamous group that posted leaked U.S. military docs and diplomatic communiqués on the web).

In Sony's case, roughly a dozen of its websites were hacked and security on several services worldwide were breached, compromising tens of millions of user accounts. The Tokyo-based company, which was forced to suspend its PlayStation Network for a month last April, estimates that the attacks cost at least $173 million.

No formal charges have been filed yet, but those likely to follow may include forming an illegal association to attack public and corporate websites. If convicted, the suspects could serve up to three years in prison.

For now, all three were released without bail.

Recently, another hacker organization called Lulz Security claimed responsibility for breaching a Sony Pictures site and releasing confidential source codes. So far, no arrests or detainments have been made in connection with this group.

[via The New York Times, Bloomberg]