Two members of the hacker group Lulz Security (LulzSec) pleaded guilty today to taking part in a cyber crime spree that launched attacks against Web sites belonging to law enforcement, corporations and media companies.
Ryan Cleary, 20, of Wickford, Essex and Jake Davis, 19, of Lerwick, Shetland admitted in a London courtroom to two counts of conspiracy to do an unauthorized act or acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing, the operation of a computer or computers, according to numerous published reports.
The charges arose from a series of attacks against Web sites belonging to the CIA, Arizona State Police, HBGary Federal, Nintendo, Sony, Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency and National Health Service, the Public Broadcasting System, News International and 20th Century Fox, among others.
Two other defendants, 25-year-old Ryan Ackroyd of Mexborough, Doncaster and an unnamed 17-year-old, already pleaded not guilty to similar charges.
Cleary, who faces charges in the United States, also pleaded guilty to four additional charges related to hijacking U.S. Air Force Agency computers inside the Pentagon.
All four maintain they are innocent of charges of “posting unlawfully obtained confidential computer data to public websites,” such as LulzSec’s website, PirateBay and Pastebin.
An April 2013 trial is scheduled.
The 50-day spree began in 2011 with the release of personal details of contestants on the Fox network talent show “The X Factor.” The group then went on to deface the PBS site with an article claiming the late rapper Tupac Shakur was seen alive in New Zealand. Other high-profile breaches involved stealing data from Atlanta-based InfraGard and publishing stolen emails from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
“For the past 50 days we’ve been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possibly everything in between, just because we could,” the group, an offshoot of the larger collective known as Anonymous, wrote in its final release.
All four hackers were arrested in their homes between June and September 2011. Three were released on bail after today’s hearing; only Cleary remained in custody for violating his bail conditions earlier this year. Various news outlets now say he may not be extradited to the United States.
Nearly all founding members of LulzSec have been charged in the United States and Britain. That includes its de facto leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, 29, of New York, who became an FBI informant after his arrest.