THE WORLDPOST
07/27/2011 01:05 pm ET Updated Sep 26, 2011

UK police arrest suspected teenage hacker

LONDON (Reuters) - A British teenager was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of being a leader of the computer hacking group that has boasted of breaking into the networks of the CIA, Sony and many other private and public bodies.

British police said the 19-year-old was held at a house in the remote Shetland Islands, off Scotland's northeast coast, and was being taken to a police station in central London.

The teenager is thought to be a spokesman for the LulzSec and Anonymous hacking groups and uses the hacker nickname "Topiary," London's Metropolitan Police Service said in a statement. The arrest was part of a "pre-planned, intelligence-led operation," it added.

LulzSec has claimed responsibility for cyber-attacks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, multiple Sony Corp websites and the website of Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper group, News International.

The group has attracted widespread global media coverage for its stunts and has nearly 350,000 followers on Twitter, the messaging website.

Last month, British police charged Ryan Cleary, 19, with attacking the website of Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and sites owned by the British Phonographic Industry and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

Cleary, arrested as part of a joint investigation by London police and the U.S. FBI into recent attacks on high-profile websites, was given bail.

The FBI raided six locations in New York earlier this month and conducted searches in California as part of an investigation into the hacking group Anonymous.

The two groups issued a joint statement on Wednesday, saying that the FBI had wrongfully arrested some of their supporters for participating in "digital sit-ins." Those campaigns had temporarily shut down the websites of targeted groups by overwhelming them with Internet traffic.

"Anonymous 'suspects' may face a fine of up to $500,000, with the addition of 15 years' jail time, all for taking part in a historical activist movement," the statement said.

The statement also urged supporters to boycott eBay Inc's PayPal electronic payment service. It asked supporters to close their PayPal accounts.

The hacker activists have previously attacked PayPal to show their opposition for the service's refusal to process payments to WikiLeaks, the website founded by Julian Assange that published copies of secret U.S. government diplomatic cables.

A spokesman for PayPal said the company had observed no changes in "normal operations," including the number of accounts that had been closed overnight.

Anonymous has also claimed to have broken into Apple Inc servers in July. It also launched attacks in December that temporarily shut down sites of MasterCard Inc and Visa Inc using simple software available on the Internet.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths in London with additional reporting by Jim Finkle in Boston and Alistair Barr in San Francisco; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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