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Friday 28 July 2017

Gardai prepare file on teens linked to global hacking ring

Darren Martyn (19) from Claregalway, Co Galway, is pictured as he walked freely around his college campus
Darren Martyn (19) from Claregalway, Co Galway, is pictured as he walked freely around his college campus
Donncha O Cearrbhail, a Trinity College student, from Birr, Co Offaly
The O Cearrbhail home in Birr, Co Offaly

Tom Brady and Barry Duggan

A STUDENT at the centre of a global investigation into computer hacking was back in college yesterday, and working on his laptop.

Darren Martyn (19), from Claregalway, Co Galway, walked freely around campus yesterday in the company of a small group of friends.

The repeat first-year student of biopharmaceutical chemistry at NUI Galway said he had nothing to say to the Irish Independent due to legal reasons.

His fellow students seemed oblivious to the fact that he was named in New York court papers this week linking him to an alleged international hacking ring.

Also named was Trinity College student Donncha O Cearrbhail (19), who was released without charge from garda custody yesterday morning following questioning.

The DPP will determine if there is evidence to warrant a criminal prosecution against either or both of the suspects here.

If the DPP gives the go-ahead for a charge, a decision must then be made on whether a trial should be held here -- or whether the FBI seek their extradition to the United States to face the charges outlined in the Manhattan court.

A spokeswoman for the US attorney's office said it would not be commenting on whether or not they intended to pursue Mr O Cearrbhail or Mr Martyn.

"There is no guidance or comment that we have on this issue," she said.

The US charges followed a lengthy investigation, led by the FBI and involving a number of police forces, including the gardai and the metropolitan police in the UK.

The investigation is focused on the activities of the 'Anonymous' hacking network and several offshoots, including a group known as 'LulzSec'.

Mr O Cearrbhail was being quizzed by gardai about allegations that he secretly recorded a police conference call and then unlawfully published information from it.

Gardai confirmed they had to tighten up security on the circulation of their emails after a hacker accessed the personal accounts of two officers.

The FBI claimed that it was Mr O Cearrbhail who hacked into the emails, after gardai had forwarded work emails to their own private accounts.

The agency alleged that he had learned information about how to access a conference call on January 17 that the gardai, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies were planning.

Planning

The FBI also claimed that Mr O Cearrbhail then accessed and secretly recorded the January 17 conference call and then passed on the illegally obtained recording to others. The London metropolitan police were also involved in the call.

An offence of intentionally disclosing an unlawfully intercepted wire communication carries a penalty of five years imprisonment.

Mr O Cearrbhail is understood to have been questioned by gardai about that alleged offence and other allegations of computer hacking, which can result in conviction of up to 10 years' imprisonment.

While he was arrested at his apartment in Dartry Road, Dublin, on Tuesday morning, the first-year student is originally from Birr, Co Offaly, and his father is independent councillor, John Carroll.

The farmer and former member of Sinn Fein refused to speak about his son when contacted by the Irish Independent. Also named in the US court indictment is Mr Martyn, from Claregalway, Co Galway. He spent yesterday afternoon working on his laptop at a coffee dock at the sprawling city campus.

Speaking from their home in Claregalway, Darren's father, Anthony, said he also had nothing to say about his son's alleged role in the plot. His son is linked in the charges of allegedly conspiring to commit computer hacking into a number of sites, including the Fine Gael website. But he is also allegedly linked to hacking systems used by security firms, HBGary, Inc, and its affiliate, HBGary Federal, LLC, from which confidential data relating to 80,000 user accounts were stolen; also the systems used by Fox Broadcasting Company, where hackers allegedly stole confidential data concerning more than 70,000 potential contestants on the popular television show 'X Factor'.

Targeted

The Fine Gael site was targeted in January last year, allegedly by the Anonymous group, which claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on companies objecting to the whistleblowing site, WikiLeaks.

Last September members of the garda computer crime unit arrested Mr O Cearrbhail and Mr Martyn for questioning about the Fine Gael site incident and they were later released without charge.

Central to the current garda inquiry is the seizure of a laptop from Mr O Cearrbhail's apartment on Monday morning and other computer equipment seized in the garda raids in Birr and Claregalway last September.

Under Irish criminal legislation, computer hacking is regarded here as criminal damage.

Irish Independent

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