Scotland Yard's cyber-crime unit has announced it has the spokesman for the disbanded cyber-prankster group LulzSec in custody.
A 19-year old man was arrested at a residential address in Scotland's remote Shetland Islands, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on July 27. Scotland Yard did not release his name, but said his online name was "Topiary."
Topiary is being transferred to London where he is expected to be charged with cyber-crime, network intrusions and hacking. Law enforcement officials also searched the Shetland Islands residence, according to the release.
"The man arrested is believed to be linked to an ongoing international investigation into the criminal activity of the so-called 'hacktivist' groups Anonymous and LulzSec," according to the release.
Scotland Yard was also investigating a 17-year-old youth in Lincolnshire, in central England, and searching a residence there, but no arrests have been made.
Topiary has described himself as one of LulzSec's six members in interviews with Associated Press in the past. Topiary is believed to have been behind the group's Twitter account and the press releases posted on text-sharing site Pastebin bragging about its activities.
"We're not quitting because we're afraid of law enforcement," Topiary told AP when LulzSec disbanded in late June. "The press are getting bored of us, and we're getting bored of us."
Scotland Yard has been investigating various network intrusions and distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against a number of international business and intelligence agencies by LulzSec and hacker collective Anonymous. LulzSec, during its 50-day spree, targeted Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency, multiple Sony sites, media companies and various American government sites. Anoynmous has claimed responsibility on attacks on government contractors, law enforcement and financial firms.
Topiary is the second high-profile member of LulzSec to be arrested. British police last week arrested 16-year-old "T-Flow," who was regarded as a prominent LulzSec operative. British police have yet to identify him by name. They also arrested 19-year-old Ryan Cleary of Wickford, Essex, in June. While news reports initially claimed Cleary was a LulzSec leader, it appears that he just ran the chat room used by the group to plan its attacks. Cleary is due to appear before a London court on Aug. 30.
The latest arrest also comes less than a week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 14 Anonymous members in the United States and Netherlands police arrested four people in relation to the attacks.
The arrest "sends a strong message," said Chet Wisniewski, senior security advisor of Sophos. "While many have found the antics of Lulz Security entertaining, breaking into computers and stealing the personal details of innocent people is a serious crime," Wisniewski said.
Rival hacker groups have published personal information of various individuals claiming to have unmasked Anonymous and LulzSec members. In those documents, Topiary is listed as living in Sweden. However, the documents aren't necessarily accurate, as recent reports showed the data on another Anonymous member "Sabu" was incorrect.
After LulzSec stopped its activities, its members joined the larger Anonymous to continue their cyber-activities. In its latest action, Anonymous has called for a boycott of eBay's PayPal to protest the organization's continued freezing of WikiLeaks funds. The group was also outraged by what it perceived as unfair legal penalties, of a fine of up to $500,000 and 15 years jailtime, just for taking part in an Anonymous operation.
"What the FBI needs to learn is that there is a vast difference between adding one's voice to a chorus and digital sit-in with Low Orbit Ion Cannon, and controlling a large botnet of infected computers. And yet both of these are punishable with exactly the same fine and sentence," reads the letter to "PayPal, its customers and our friends," shared on Pastebin.
More than 35,000 people have already allegedly cancelled their accounts in protest, Anonymous said. The group has also been gleefully posting PayPal's dropping stock price throughout the day.
Anonymous has retaliated with more attacks whenever any of its members have been arrested, and Topiary's arrest is no exception. Within three hours of Scotland Yard's announcement, the collective posted the following warning: "Also, tomorrow: Expect something nice. Looks like the FBI asked for a slap in the face. Well, we can deliver. #FFF (On Thursday, who cares)"