A Shetland teenager is among five computer hackers to have been charged with offences including the alleged hacking of a string of major businesses and government agencies in the United States and elsewhere.
Jake Davis, known as “Topiary”, is one of four principal members of hacking groups Anonymous, LulzSec and Internet Feds who was today charged with computer hacking and other crimes.
A fifth man, LulzSec’s public figurehead Hector Xavier Monsegur, was confirmed to have pleaded guilty to 12 counts of hacking conspiracies and other crimes in August 2011. Since being arrested, Monsegur has reportedly begun working for the police.
A string of accusations against the other hackers stems at least in part from information and statements made by Monsegur in his guilty plea. American media outlets are reporting that Monsegur’s co-operation led to the arrest of Davis, 19, and several other alleged hackers, including a second British man, 23-year-old Ryan Ackroyd, known as “Kayla”.
Davis is already facing criminal charges in this country after first being arrested at his chalet in Hoofields, Lerwick, last July by officers from the Metropolitan Police’s e-crime unit.
He is accused of hacking computers to disrupt websites operated by a range of organisations, including the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), and is due to appear in Southwark Crown Court to tender a plea later this year.
Court documents unsealed in a Manhattan court this morning accuse Davis of being among five hackers who, as members of hacking group Internet Feds, carried out a “deliberate campaign of online destruction, intimidation, and criminality” between December 2010 and May 2011.
Those allegations include: hacking the website of Fine Gael, a political party in Ireland; the hack of systems used by security firm HB Gary, from which confidential data pertaining to 80,000 users was stolen; and the theft of data relating to more than 70,000 contestants on the US version of X Factor, a Fox television show.
The indictment, issued by the US attorney’s office, further accuses Davis of being one of four who formed LulzSec in May 2011 following the publicity generated by previous hacks. He and the others are accused of undertaking “a campaign of malicious cyber assaults on the websites and computer systems of various business and government entities in the United States and throughout the world”.
Also mentioned in the indictment is that Anonymous, a “loose confederation of computer hackers and others”, took responsibility for a series of cyber attacks between December 2010 and June 2011. Those are said to include denial of service attacks against the websites of Visa, MasterCard and PayPal, in retaliation after those companies refused to process donations to Julian Assange’s Wikileaks, as well as hacks or attacks on foreign government computer systems.
Responding to the arrests, a senior FBI official told Fox News: “This is devastating to the organisation. We’re chopping off the head of LulzSec.”
The case is being prosecuted by the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York. The investigation was initiated and led by the FBI and its New York cyber crime task force.