Hacker arrested in Britain speculated to be LulzSec mastermind
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jun 21, 2011
This story has been updated to include LulzSec's response to the arrest.
A young man arrested in Britain may be the mastermind of the hacker group LulzSecurity.
British police, working with the FBI, have arrested the man for network intrusions and distributed denial-of-service attacks. However, the unidentified 19-year-old man's connection to the hacker group is speculative.
LulzSec later denied on its Twitter feed that the suspect was a member of the group.
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, Anonymous declare war on government websites
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.”
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.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.