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5/16/2013
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LulzSec Hackers Sentenced In London

Group's 50-day hacking spree compromised websites run by Sony, CIA, Arizona State Police, Westboro Baptist Church and more.

LulzSec Hacker "Topiary" famously tweeted: "You cannot arrest an idea."

Perhaps not, but in the case of Topiary, revealed to be Jake Davis, now 20, you can be sentenced to 24 months in a "young offenders institute" for two counts of conspiracy to impair the operation of a computer, to be followed by a five-year serious crime prevention order that can restrict where he can travel and which jobs he'll be allowed to take.

Davis' sentence was handed out in a London courtroom Thursday, where he appeared this week for sentencing with Ryan Cleary (Viral), Mustafa al-Bassam (Tflow) and Ryan Ackroyd (Kayla). All were participants in the Anonymous spin-off known as LulzSec, which launched online attacks against numerous organizations' websites, including the CIA, Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) and National Health Service (NHS), 20th Century Fox, News International, and Sony Pictures Entertainment, from which it also leaked customer credentials and credit card numbers.

[ Want to know how the feds are trying to stop hacktivists? Read FBI Briefs Bank Executives On DDoS Attack Campaign. ]

Cleary, 21, was sentenced to 32 months in prison followed by a five-year serious crime prevention order. Ackroyd, 26, was sentenced to 30 months. Al-Bassam, meanwhile, who was only 16 -- and still a high school student -- when LulzSec embarked on its 50-day hacking spree, received a 20-month suspended sentence. The 18-year-old was also ordered to perform 300 hours of community service, and must submit to a supervision order -- aka probation -- for six months.

At the four men's sentencing hearing Wednesday, prosecutor Sandip Patel accused them of being "latter-day pirates." (In fact, one ASCII art logo used by LulzSec, aka "The Lulz Boat," featured a pirate ship with a "LOL" flag.) "This is not about young immature men messing about. They are at the cutting edge of a contemporary and emerging species of criminal offender known as a cybercriminal," Patel said.

British police arrested Cleary on June 20, 2011, followed by al-Bassam on July 19, Davis on July 27 and Ackroyd on September 1. All four men subsequently pleaded guilty to some or all of the hacking charges filed against them.

"This has been a long and complex investigation conducted with the assistance of our international partners," said Charlie McMurdie, the London Metropolitan Police detective superintendent who heads the Police Central e-Crime Unit. "After initially being alerted by the FBI to criminal activity on British soil, we came to arrest Ryan Cleary and quickly began unpicking LulzSec, who had been running riot, causing significant harm to businesses and people."

According to investigators, Ackroyd took the lead on researching and executing many of the group's hack attacks, and Cleary assisted by offering the use of his botnet to generate distributed denial-of-service attacks that disrupted targeted sites and servers. Meanwhile, al-Bassam trolled for exploitable vulnerabilities in websites and maintained LulzSec's website, while Davis acted as spokesman, managing the group's Twitter account and issuing press releases.

"Theirs was an unusual campaign in that it was more about promoting their own criminal behavior than any form of personal financial profit," McMurdie said. "In essence, they were the worst sort of vandal -- acting without care of cost or harm to those they affected, whether that was to cause a company to fold and so costing people their jobs, or to put at threat the thousands of innocent Internet users whose logins and passwords they made public."

"In the case of the police force whose employee details they revealed, the group's reckless publication of confidential material could very well have threatened lives," he said.

A police digital forensic investigation of computers seized during LulzSec raids found "indecent material" relating to child pornography on one of Cleary's computers. Cleary has pleaded guilty to two counts of making indecent images of children, and one count of possessing those images. He's due to be sentenced on those charges on June 12, 2013.

LulzSec's leader, U.S. hacker Sabu, whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, was arrested by the FBI in June 2011 and turned informer. At the request of U.S. prosecutors, who said he's assisting in investigations, he has yet to be sentenced.

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