Teen who could be LulzSec hacker arrested in Britain

Group later denies he's a member

This article has been updated to include LulzSec's response to the arrest.

British police, working with the FBI, have arrested a 19-year-old man for network intrusions and distributed denial-of-service attacks amid speculation the man is behind the hacker group Lulz Security.

The arrest occurred just as LulzSec and another hacker group, Anonymous, had declared open season on government websites, calling for the theft and release of classified information from any sites that could be hacked.

LulzSec later denied on its Twitter feed that the suspect was a member of the group.

The Metropolitan Police Central e-Crime Unit, in a release, did not identify the man or mention LulzSec, but said he is suspected of “attacks against a number of international business and intelligence agencies by what is believed to be the same hacking group.”

Related coverage:

LulzSec, Anonymous declare war on government websites

Britain’s SkyNews identified the teenager as Ryan Cleary of Wickford, Essex, and said he is suspected in being "a mastermind" behind LulzSec.

LulzSec’s subsequent tweet said, “Ryan Cleary is not part of LulzSec; we house one of our many legitimate chatrooms on his IRC server, but that’s it,” TechCrunch reported.

Cleary was arrested at his home Monday and is being held for questioning at a London police station, the eCrime Unit said. Police also said they are performing forensic examinations of a “significant amount of material” recovered from the suspect’s home.

LulzSec has drawn a lot of attention lately for hacks of U.S. government websites, including those of the Senate, CIA and the Atlanta chapter of InfraGard, a nonprofit cybersecurity group affiliated with the FBI.

The hacker group also has attacked the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency — a British equivalent of the FBI — and large companies such as Sony and Nintendo.

The arrest came on the heels of the attack on the CIA’s site and a supposed claim, made in an online notice, that LulzSec had gained access to the UK’s entire 2011 census. However, LulzSec subsequently denied taking census data, PC World reported.

LulzSec’s recent attacks on government sites have been designed mostly to embarrass the agencies running them — carrying out attacks for the ‘lulz,’ or laughs, but causing little real damage.

But on June 19 the group announced an alliance with Anonymous on what it called Operation Anti-Security, or AntiSec, calling for attacks on government websites. The announcement invited other hackers to “to open fire on any government or agency that crosses their path,” and said, “Top priority is to steal and leak any classified government information, including e-mail spools and documentation.”

The Met’s e-Crimes Unit said it has been working with the FBI on the case and the arrest was the result of a “pre-planned intelligence-led operation.” The suspect was arrested formally for offenses again Britain’s Computer Misuse Act, and Fraud Act.

The suspect could be extradited to the United States to face charges for attacks on U.S. websites. However, SkyNews noted comparisons to the case of British hacker Gary McKinnon, who faces up to 60 years in jail in the United States for hacking into Pentagon and NASA computers between February 2001 and March 2002, but so far has successfully fended off extradition attempts.


About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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Reader Comments

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 mclight

There us not enough information in this article. Why is the 19year-olddoctor man's affiliation to LulzSec important? Instead of arresting this young man he should be hired and trained to work for the government assisting the government in creating stronger firewalls for government system.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 Darrin Lee Honolulu

These Internet hackers are no better than other common criminals. Unfortunately, white collar criminals seem to get off easier than "blue collar" criminals who commit violent crimes. This guy will probably get probation, and then be hired by an Internet security firm to try and stop other hackers (similar thing happened to the guy in the Philippines who created the Love Virus a few years back. With so much personal information on the Internet nowadays, we can no longer expect any kind of privacy in the traditional sense. Often new technology and the storage of personal, or in the case of government agencies classified data, also brings new risk. Every time we log on we must be conscious of you can see, or illegally access our personal information. Take the time to create those annoying (but necessary) 15 digit passwords with uppercase/lowercase, numbers, and special characters. It will not prevent guys like this from hacking government site, but will drastically decrease your chances of becoming a victim. Wrong is wrong and white collar crime is crime, we must seek the maximum sentence for groups like this to set an example.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 Ian Hawaii

It is obscene that people hack into networks and websites internationally. Nothing can be trusted on the Internet nowadays. The United States is constantly creating new software that detects or somewhat prevents these occurences. In retrospect, every site and network on the Worldwide Web should be precautious and keep updated with the latest version of spyware (hacking detection). It is a shame that no one can be trusted on the Internet!

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 lani hawaii

I do not agree with malicious attacks to disrupt commerce or spread identity theft. However, hacking and releasing confidential government communication has become the chic method of political protest. Assange started out blogging in communities such as the ones this young man claims association with, and his vision of global change has impacted many lives. How does one measure the cost of transparency? The information now available online is astounding. One could surmise that today, more than ever, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. I agree that hacking should have legal repercussions, but the talents of criminals such be utilized to advance security protocols and information technology training, not wasted by incarceration.

Thu, Jun 23, 2011 nodnarb

What is the point of these hackers' actions!? They are taking the cliche "angry with the government" stance to a whole new level. No one benefits when classified information leaks, especially in today's world where security is such a concern.

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