Australia Arrests Professed Head of Hacking Group

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SYDNEY, Australia -- The federal police in Australia have arrested the self-proclaimed leader of a prominent international hacking collective known as LulzSec, which is perhaps best known for its assertions of being behind a cyberattack that shut down the Central Intelligence Agency's public Web site in 2011.

The Australian Federal Police said that they arrested the 24-year-old Australian citizen on Tuesday night in connection with an attack on an unspecified Australian government Web site earlier this month. The unidentified man, who faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on two hacking-related charges, is said to have used his position as an I.T. specialist at a Sydney-based company to access sensitive information from clients including the Australian government.

"The A.F.P. has zero tolerance for this kind of behavior," Glen McEwen, manager of cybercrime operations at the Australian Federal Police, said at a news conference on Wednesday. "There were no denials of his claims of being the leader."

"The A.F.P. believes this man's skill sets and access to this kind of information presented a considerable risk to Australian society," Mr. McEwan added.

LulzSec, which draws its name from a combination of "lulz" -- an Internet coinage derived from "lol" for "laughing out loud" -- and "security," is a diffuse online community of so-called hacktivists. These hackers differ from mainstream cybercriminals in that they claim to be motivated by ideals as opposed to financial gain. The group is reported to have grown out of Anonymous, another ideologically motivated hacking group, and has also claimed responsibility for cyberattacks on Sony Pictures, Nintendo and a British newspaper, The Sun, owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Both groups first gained widespread publicity in 2010 when they waged a series of coordinated cyberattacks in retaliation for efforts to shut down the Web site of the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks. LulzSec is also said to have breached a number of Australian government and university Web sites in 2011. Anonymous claimed responsibility for taking down roughly 10 Australian government Web sites as part of a protest against plans to compel Australian Internet service providers to make private user data available to the country's security services.

The Australian police said that the arrested man, who goes by the online moniker Aush0k, had repeatedly asserted in online forums that he was the group's leader. The suspect's online activities had brought him to the attention of international law enforcement authorities before the attack that led to his arrest, the federal police said.

His arrest added to a recent string of setbacks for the organization, whose members have been increasingly targeted by law enforcement officials in the United States and Europe.

Last year, it was revealed that LulzSec's previous leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, known online as Sabu, had been providing federal law enforcement officials with information on the hacking group as part of a plea bargain after his arrest in 2011.

More recently, an American member of LulzSec, Cody Kretsinger, was sentenced last week by a Los Angeles court to one year in prison for his role in a LulzSec attack on Sony Pictures. Mr. Kretsinger, who used the online moniker Recursion, also pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with prosecutors.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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