Scottish hacker admits cyber attacks on CIA

Hacker Ryan Ackroyd arrives at court in London yesterday. Picture: Reuters
Hacker Ryan Ackroyd arrives at court in London yesterday. Picture: Reuters
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A TWENTY-YEAR-OLD from Shetland has pleaded guilty to hacking and launching cyber attacks on a range of organisations, including the CIA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Jake Davis, of Lerwick, was part of a hacking group known as LulzSec which launched a string of cyber attacks across the world.

Yesterday, one of the group, 26-year-old Ryan Ackroyd, was due to stand trial charged with taking part in a string of cyber attacks, but pleaded guilty to one charge of carrying out an unauthorised act to impair the operation of a computer, contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Ackroyd, from Mexborough, South Yorkshire, admitted being a member of LulzSec, acting as a hacker to access websites for Sony, 20th Century Fox, the NHS, Nintendo, the Arizona State Police, and News International, between February and September 2011.

Prosecutor Sandip Patel told the court: “He was the hacker, so to speak – they turned to him for his expertise as a hacker” and said Ackroyd admitted using the persona of a 16-year-old girl, Kayla, on the site.

Mr Patel said the Crown Prosecution Service was prepared to drop a separate hacking charge against Ackroyd on the basis of his guilty plea.

Earlier yesterday, Southwark Crown Court heard that fellow hackers Mustafa Al-Bassam, 18, from Peckham, south London, and Davis had also pleaded guilty to hacking and launching cyber attacks on a range of organisations, including the CIA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Wearing blue Adidas tracksuit bottoms and a blue T-shirt, Ackroyd appeared alongside Davis in the glass-encased dock before Judge Deborah Taylor.

Ryan Cleary, 21, of Wickford, Essex, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same two charges as well as four separate charges, including hacking into US Air Force computers at the Pentagon. All four are to be sentenced on 14 May.

The men are said to have carried out distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on the institutions with other unidentified hackers belonging to online groups such as LulzSec, Anonymous and Internet Feds.

The DDoS attacks they carried out flood websites with traffic, making them crash and rendering them unavailable to users.

To carry out the attacks, they used a remotely controlled network of “zombie” computers, known as a “botnet”, capable of being programmed to perform DDoS operations.

LulzSec is a spin-off of the loosely organised hacking collective Anonymous. Lulz is internet slang that can be interpreted as “laughs”, “humour” or “amusement”, and Sec refers to “security”.

Davis, who allegedly used the name Topiary online, became known worldwide after his arrest and famously wore dark sunglasses on previous court appearances.

Topiary allegedly described himself as a “simple prankster turned swank garden hedge”.

On 24 February, 2011, Topiary gained attention after appearing on US television and claiming to have replaced a Westboro Baptist Church webpage.

On 14 July, 2011, a newspaper published an interview with Topiary, in which he spoke extensively about his motivations.

He described himself as “an internet denizen with a passion for change” and he said he feared being tracked by the authorities. He said: “I can only hope that they haven’t pinned any of us, especially my friends from LulzSec.”