A SUSPECTED hacker wanted by the FBI and arrested over cyber plots by online anarchists Anonymous and LulzSec has been released without charge.
Donncha O’Cearbhail, (19) a county councillor's son who uses the online name palladium, was detained in Dublin yesterday after being named on a charge sheet from a New York court.
He has been accused of tapping into a conference call the FBI had with gardai and other international agencies investigating an international hacking ring in January.
The FBI claims that he is one of five most wanted top hackers in the world named in court papers filed in Manhattan yesterday.
A garda spokesman said the student had been freed this morning while a file on the case was being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Mr O’Cearbhail, studying at Trinity College Dublin, was questioned on suspicion of membership of Anonymous and spin-off collective LulzSec.
He was also suspected of hacking into a garda officer's personal email and sourcing information on the January conference call before secretly recording it and passing it on to others.
A second Irish student, Darren Martyn, listed as being 25 but believed to be 19, from Galway, with the hacker name pwnsauce, was also named on the charge sheet published by the US Attorney's office. He has not been arrested.
First year student Mr O’Cearbhail faces up to 15 years in a US prison if convicted on allegations of computer hacking and telephone intercepts.
He is the son of Offaly Independent Councillor John Carroll from Birr, a former Sinn Fein candidate in local elections.
NUI Galway student Mr Martyn, faces a potential 20 year sentence if he is found guilty on allegations outlined in New York court documents, which include hacking a Garda/FBI conference call, the Fox broadcasting network and the Fine Gael website.
While Mr O’ Cearrbhail was questioned for 24 hours at Terenure Garda Station in Dublin after his arrest at his Dartry apartment, Mr Martyn, under the alias info_doc took to his Twitter account saying he was frightened but would ‘keep on smiling while I am walking about”.
Award winning student Mr O’Cearbhail left St Brendan’s Community School, Birr, Co Offaly, just last year, and achieved 505 points in his Leaving Certificate.
For the last two years he represented Ireland in the International Olympiads on Informatics hosted in Canada and Thailand and he is a recipient of an Offaly Development Board ‘STEM’ scholarship for excellence and dedication in the promotion of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,
He is currently a junior freshman in Trinity where he is studying Medicinal Chemistry.
In his LinkedIn profile he states: “I have a strong interest in all aspects of computer science. 4+ years experience in PHP/MySQL application development.”
He lists his interests as “information security, web development and chemistry” and the causes he cares about as arts, culture and politics.
He said he is a developer with embarkable.ie and his work consists of “complete customisation of open source solutions to meet the needs of clients. Extensive experience with PHP, MySQL and Linux system administration”.
According to court papers he was arrested by the gardai last September in relation to the hacking of the Fine Gael website.
The FBI alleges that Mr O’Cearbhail, who uses the internet aliases palladium, polonium and anonsacco, hacked in to a Garda email account in January and used it to find out about a conference call the Gardai, FBI and other law enforcement agencies were planning to hold about Anonymous. He is accused of recording the call and passing it onto others.
The Irish Examiner reports today that he is alleged to have boasted of being able to track the movements of the head of the Garda cyber crime unit.
Mr Martyn, who uses the aliases pwnsause, raepsauce and networkkitten, is named in US court papers along with Ryan Ackroyd (25), aka "Kayla", from Doncaster, England; Jake Davis (19), aka "Topiary", from the Shetland Islands, Scotland; and Chicago-based Jeremy Hammond, aka "Anarchaos".
Mr Ackroyd and Mr Davis have been arrested by British police.
Mr Hammond is alleged by the FBI to have been the main player behind the hacking of the US security company Stratfor last December, which resulted in the seizure of more than five million company emails and other confidential information. The material was then published by WikiLeaks.
Mr Martyn went online last night to describe himself as a “reformed hacker” and said he was frightened by the unfolding investigation.
He said taking part in illegal hacking was “probably the most stupid thing you could do”.
According to a report in the Irish Examiner he said he had turned his back on hacking last year, prior to his arrest on the infiltration of the Fine Gael website.
In a post on boards.ie he said:”I had gone kinda whitehat just a small bit before my arrest and since my arrest have worked to ‘rehabilitate’ myself by contributing as much as I can to the open source/security community while I remain at liberty to do so.”
In his LinkedIn profile he says he got 445 points in his Leaving Certificate and is the founder and main researcher at Insecurety Research – a loose knit collective of computer security researchers. He is a past pupil of Calasanctius College, Oranmore, Galway.
A number of FBI agents are understood to be in Ireland at the moment to help gardai. The investigation is focused on the activities of the Anonymous hacking network and several offshoots, including a group known as LulzSec.
Victims of the hacking included Sony, PayPal, Fox News, websites of US police forces and a number of official websites belonged to various governments.
The FBI investigation was apparently stepped up after the arrest last August of another suspect, Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka "Sabu", who pleaded guilty to 12 offences.
Monsegur (28), from New York, was alleged to have co-operated with the FBI.
The Guardian reports today that US authorities say Monsegur, a celebrity for his attacks on the US senate, was 'flipped' after his arrest when threatened with 124 years in prison.
The FBI apparently took his own battered laptop and replaced it with their own – which they monitored around the clock.
Meanwhile online Monsegur maintained his presence and a bravura attitude. "Next thing you'll say is I work for the CIA and I'm a blackop," he responded to a Guardian inquiry on Twitter after the Sun's website was hacked in July 2011.
"Am I snitch/informant? Lets be real – I don't know any identities of anyone in my crew," said an online post attributed to Monsegur in October last year – weeks after he was "flipped" by US authorities. "And the last thing I'd ever do is take down my own people. I am a grown ass man I can handle my own issues. I've been to jail before – I don't fear it. In fact there is very little I am afraid of especially these days."
Monsegur was finally unmasked on Tuesday after it emerged that he had pleaded guilty to computer hacking charges and had acted as an informant for the FBI since August 2011, just as the international crackdown on the notorious Anonymous hacker collective gathered pace.
Monsegur was deeply involved in attacks on behalf of WikiLeaks in December 2010, according to court papers unsealed in Manhattan.
Documents filed in court in New York allege that the hackers:
· Compromised an FBI computer
· Hacked US security firm HB Gary Inc and stole confidential data relating to thousands of users
· Stole confidential data on over 70,000 potential X Factor contestants in the US
· Attacked the website of US network PBS and stole personal information of 2,000 employees
· Attacked finegael2011.com hosted in Arizona and uploaded code that defaced the website