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Cyber Security

Australia charges 'leader' of hacking group LulzSec

Australian police say they have arrested the leader of the hacking group LulzSec. The group had claimed responsibility for attacking the websites of numerous government and private sector websites, including the CIA.

The 24-year-old, whose name was not released, was arrested late Tuesday night at his office in Gosford, just north of Sydney, the Australian Federal Police said.

He was charged with two counts of unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment, and one count of unauthorized access to, or modification of, restricted data. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison.

Police said the IT worker had previously claimed to be a high-level member of the hacking group Lulz Security, or LulzSec.

Position of trust, say police

According to Glen McEwen, manager of cyber crime operations at Australian Federal Police, the suspect had held a position of trust at an international company where he had access to sensitive information from clients, including government agencies.

"Let me make it extremely clear to everybody out there, this is not harmless fun, this is serious," McEwen said at a press conference.

Formed in 2011 as an offshoot of the hacking group Anonymous, LulzSec shot to prominence after claiming to have hacked a number of high-profile websites, including those belonging to the CIA, Sony Pictures, Nintendo, the US Public Broadcasting Service and Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency.

The group allegedly also broke into Australian government and university websites in 2011.

It derives its name from a combination of "lulz," another way of writing "lols" or "laugh out loud," and security.

Doubts surface

Anonymous Australia on Wednesday appeared to dismiss the police allegations on Twitter, according to the news agency Associated Press. In response to a follower, who asked if anyone knew who the arrested suspect was, AP said the group had tweeted: "Nope not part of the usual suspects on any of our chans of communication."

The 24-year-old is the latest in a string of suspected members of LulzSec to be arrested in recent years. Last week an American member of LulzSec, Cody Kretsinger, was sentenced to a year in prison followed by home detention.

The reputed leader of Anonymous, known as Sabu, has also been arrested. Sabu, whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, was an FBI informant, who officials said helped them build a case against several other hackers.

The suspect has been released on bail to appear in court next month.

ccp/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)