Teen held in global hacking blitz probe
Published 22/06/2011 | 05:00
AN ALLEGED teenage member of a secretive group of computer hackers was arrested by police in Essex yesterday as part of an international investigation into cyber assaults on Sony, the US Senate and the CIA homepage.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit raided the home of Ryan Cleary (19), from Wickford, Essex, as part of a "pre-planned intelligence operation" in collaboration with the FBI.
The arrest came on a day of confusion after a blog post claimed the "hactivist" collective known as LulzSec had obtained a digital copy of Britain's entire census database. The claim was denied by both the Office of National Statistics and LulzSec through its Twitter feed. But the allegation still sent the internet into a frenzy of speculation over what could have been the largest data breach in history.
A string of large-scale data thefts by hackers, coupled with the leaking of enormous databases to whistle-blowing websites such as WikiLeaks, has created a sense of unease that neither government nor corporations are doing enough to keep information safe.
Officers swooped on a semi-detached property at 3.30am yesterday. Mr Cleary's mother told reporters that her son had been obsessed with the internet since he was 12, adding: "Computers were his world."
The Metropolitan Police said the arrest was part of an investigation into disruption attacks "against a number of international business and intelligence agencies by what is believed to be the same hacking group". Officers found "a significant amount of material" and said examinations were ongoing.
The hacks linked to LulzSec include the theft of hundreds of thousands of user details from Sony Pictures. Last week members announced that they were intending to start targeting government institutions as well.
Sources say that Mr Cleary's arrest on suspicion of computer misuse and fraud was sparked by international investigations into the recent hacking of websites run by Sony Pictures, the CIA and Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency. Over the past few weeks, LulzSec claims to have hacked all these sites.
Last month, Anonymous, a rival cyber protest group to LulzSec, published details of Mr Cleary online after claiming he had fallen out with them. It claimed he tried to break into their encrypted chatrooms and they responded by posting a string of personal details online.
Posting anonymously, members of LulzSec were quick to play down speculation that Mr Cleary was one of their leaders. "Good news everybody," wrote one. "Ryan has little to do with #LulzSec besides running (chat rooms). All 6 members of @LulzSec are fine and safe."
The group also responded to the arrest on Twitter: "Seems the glorious leader of LulzSec got arrested, it's all over now . . . wait . . . we're all still here!" Later postings also mocked claims that they had stolen census data. "Just saw the (claim) of the UK census hack," one tweet read. "That wasn't us."
The denial came after a claim, made in a blog post: "We have blissfully obtained records of every single citizen who gave their records to the security-illiterate UK government for the 2011 census. We're keeping them under lock and key though . . . so don't worry about your privacy (until we finish reformatting them for release)."
The Office of National Statistics, which runs the census, said it had no evidence that data was stolen. (© Independent News Service)