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5/16/2013
04:05 PM
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LulzSec Hackers Get Prison Time in U.K. For Cyberattacks

Prison time marks the end of a prominent chapter in hacktivist history, one security researcher says

Four people tied to the notorious LulzSec crew were forced to face the music today as a judge in London handed down sentencing.

Saying the group "wreaked havoc and destruction," Judge Deborah Taylor of Southwark Crown Court issued a mixture of penalties for the defendants. The stiffest sentence was handed down to Ryan Cleary, 21, who was hit with a 32-month prison term. Ryan Ackroyd, 26, was sentenced to 30 months, while co-defendant Jake Davis, 20, was given a two-year sentence and ordered to serve his time in a juvenile institution.

Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, received a 20-month suspended sentence for his role in the group.

Some of the LulzSec members could face extradition to the U.S., according to a BBC report.

LulzSec, short for Lulz Security, was formed in 2011. The group would go on to attack organizations ranging from Fox News to Sony to the CIA. The FBI eventually caught up with Hector Xavier Monsegur, who went by the nickname "Sabu," in June 2011. He then became a federal informant, and during the course of several months began to unravel the gang from within.

Arrests of other group members and affiliates followed. Cleary, who Scotland Yard's Police Central e-Crime Unit said was not a core member of the group, assisted members by allowing them to use a botnet under his control to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks. Al-Bassam was involved in discovering and exploiting vulnerabilities, and also created and controlled LulzSec's website. Davis, meanwhile, acted as the group's spokesperson and managed their Twitter account and press releases, while Ackroyd researched and executing many of their hacks.

"This has been a long and complex investigation conducted with the assistance of our international partners," Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the Police Central e-Crime Unit, said in a statement. "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."

"Theirs was an unusual campaign in that it was more about promoting their own criminal behavior than any form of personal financial profit," he adds. "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."

These arrests mark the close of the loudest and most prominent chapter in the history of hacktivism, says Rob Rachwald, FireEye's senior director of market research.

"LulzSec was the Bonnie and Clyde of the cyberera, making hacktivism a significant factor in cyberattack," he says. "Since LulzSec's breakup, hacktivism remains a force, but is just a shell of what it used to be. LulzSec's hacking skills were significant, and other groups have tried -- without the same success -- to emulate their achievements."

Cleary also pleaded guilty to two counts of making indecent images of children and one count of possession of indecent images of children. He is scheduled to be sentenced on those charges June 12.

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Brian Prince is a freelance writer for a number of IT security-focused publications. Prior to becoming a freelance reporter, he worked at eWEEK for five years covering not only security, but also a variety of other subjects in the tech industry. Before that, he worked as a ... View Full Bio

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