LulzSec leader nabbed by Australian police on hacking charges

Australian authorities have arrested a self-avowed leader of hacktivist collective LulzSec, on charges of having breached a government websites in an online attack earlier this month.

The 24-year-old, whose identity has been kept under wraps by Australian police, was apprehended in Point Clare, a coastal town 80km north of Sydney. Local press have identified him as Matthew Flannery, with ‘Aushok’ named as his online handle, though authorities have not confirmed those reports.

The man, who authorities say is a senior IT worker, faces up to 12 years in prison after being charged with two counts of unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment and a single count of unauthorised access to, or modification of, restricted data, all related to the defacement of an Australian government website.

“The AFP [Australian Federal Police] believes the man’s knowledge and skills presented a significant risk to the clients of the company for which he was employed had he continued his illegal online activities,” police said in a statement.

“Those thinking of engaging in such activities should be warned that hacking, creating or propagating malicious viruses or participating in Distributed Denial of Service attacks are not harmless fun,” warned Australian Cyber Crime Operations Commander Glen McEwen.

After a quick rise to prominence over the past two years, LulzSec has seen a series of defeats, beginning with the revelation last year that leader Hector Xavier Monsegur, best known by the alias ‘Sabu’, worked as an informant for US authorities for months after his own arrest. Meanwhile, in the UK, four members of the Anonymous offshoot face jail time for similar hacking charges.