The FBI on Thursday arrested a suspected member of the hacker group LulzSec in connection with a cyber attack earlier this year against the computer systems of Sony Pictures.
Cody Kretsinger, 23, of Phoenix, was arrested and charged with helping LulzSec attack Sony's servers between May 27 and June 2. The group's hack compromised the personal data belonging to one million Sony customers, which the group then posted online.
Also on Thursday, the FBI arrested two other men with suspected ties to the hacker group Anonymous for allegedly crashing a county-run website in California, authorities said.
The arrests were the latest in an ongoing effort by authorities to crackdown on the hacker groups who have exposed widespread security lapses in government and corporate computer systems. In July, authorities arrested 14 suspected members of Anonymous for allegedly bringing down PayPal's website over four days in retaliation for the company suspending payments to the whistle-blower site Wikileaks.
In June, British authorities arrested Ryan Cleary, 19, for his suspected involvement in a cyberattack by LulzSec on the CIA website. He was charged with building a botnet, or a network of remotely-controlled computers to overwhelm websites with traffic.
Authorities say Kretsinger, also known by the online nickname “recursion,” is believed to be a current or former member of LulzSec, which has also taken credit for hacking the website of PBS. He has been charged with conspiracy and the unauthorized impairment of a protected computer, the FBI said.
To carry out the attack, Kretsinger allegedly used a proxy server to disguise his computer's IP address, then obtained confidential information from Sony's network using an SQL injection - a technique used by hackers to exploit vulnerabilities and steal information, according to the FBI. The indictment also alleges that, in order to avoid detection by law enforcement, Kretsinger erased the hard drive of the computer he used to conduct the attack.
Kretsinger was scheduled to appear Thursday before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Phoenix. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.
Meanwhile on Thursday, authorities also charged Christopher Doyon, 47, of Mountain View, Calif., and Joshua John Covelli, 26, of Fairborn, Ohio, with bringing down the website of Santa Cruz County last December. Doyon and Covelli were allegedly assisting the People’s Liberation Front, which has been associated with Anonymous, in a denial of service attack, which floods a website with so much traffic that it crashes, authorities said.
The attack, which was nicknamed “Operation Peace Camp 2010," was in retaliation for the Santa Cruz police cracking down on a protest last summer outside the county courthouse. The protesters were supporting the homeless and hoping to ban a city ordinance that prohibited camping within city limits, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. Several protesters were charged with misdemeanors during the protest, including Doyon, the paper reported.
For the attack against the county's website, Doyon and Covelli were charged with conspiracy to cause intentional damage to a protected computer, causing intentional damage to a protected computer, and aiding and abetting, authorities said. They both face a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Covelli has also been charged with participating in a cyberattack that brought down the PayPal website last December, authorities said.
This story has been updated to include details on the arrests of Christopher Doyon and Joshua John Covelli.
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