A former soldier from Doncaster will learn today if he is to be jailed for his part in a sophisticated computer hacking network which stole sensitive data from across the world.
The group, including Mexborough man Ryan Ackroyd, considered themselves to be ‘modern day pirates’ who led cyber attacks on websites and systems of major institutions including the CIA, Sony, the FBI and Nintendo, a court heard yesterday.
Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Mustafa Al-Bassam and Ryan Cleary were ‘hactivists’ with the LulzSec collective which also targeted organisations like the NHS, the Serious Organised Crime Agency and News International.
They are due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in London later today.
Working from their bedrooms in 2011, they stole huge amounts of sensitive personal data including emails, online passwords and credit card details belonging to thousands of people.
The information was then posted openly on their website and file-sharing sites like Pirate Bay.
They also carried out cyber attacks on many institutions, crashing their websites.
Prosecutor Sandip Patel said the men lacked the political drive of groups like Anonymous, from which they had developed, and instead seemed to be doing it just for kicks.
“It’s clear from the evidence they intended to achieve extensive national and international notoriety and publicity,” he said.
“They saw themselves as latter-day pirates. This is not young immature men messing about. They are at the cutting edge of a contemporary and emerging species of criminal offender known as a cyber criminal.”
Ex-soldier Ackroyd, aged 26, of Oak Road, Mexborough, 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.
He hacked major institutions, including stealing huge amounts of data from Sony, and a hack of News International websites that led people visiting The Sun’s site being redirected to a fake story about Rupert Murdoch committing suicide.
Ackroyd used the online persona of a 16-year-old girl called Kayla.
Al-Bassam, 18, from Peckham, south London, was still at school at the time.
Davis, 20, from Shetland, smirked in the dock when details of his activities were outlined to the court. He was also LulzSec’s main publicist and in charge of media relations.
Both he and Al-Bassam previously pleaded guilty to hacking and launching cyber attacks on a range of organisations, including the CIA and the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Cleary, 21, of Essex, pleaded guilty to the same two charges as well as four separate charges including hacking into US Air Force computers at the Pentagon.
He also admitted possession of indecent images relating to child pornography including rape scenes found on his hard drive by police.
Davis, Al-Bassam and Ackroyd were core members of LulzSec along with a New York-based hacker. Lulz is internet slang that can be interpreted as ‘laughs’ and Sec refers to ‘security’.
LulzSec existed for only a matter of months in 2011 before the main members were arrested and it posted a message online announcing it had been disbanded on June 25.
It had built up a huge international following, reaching 355,000 Twitter followers by July that year.
LulzSec’s motto was: “We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”
They would probe websites looking for security weaknesses that could be exploited.