LulzSec's Alleged Leader Arrested: Anonymous-Linked Hacktivist Faces Trial

The hacker group LulzSec published data stolen from 1 million user accounts on Sony's website. It crashed the website of the CIA. And now its alleged leader has been arrested.

According to a news release published by the Australian Federal Police, a 24-year-old man who referred to himself as leader of LulzSec, was arrested in Sydney Tuesday evening. The AFP did not name the man, but said that he works in the IT industry and has access to sensitive information from government agencies.

He is charged with two counts of unauthorized modification of data to cause impairment and one count of unauthorized access to restricted data, and will appear in court on May 15. If charged, he will face up to 10 years in prison for the first charge and two years in prison for the second.

Although the Australian police did not name the man, The Australian, identified 24-year-old Matthew Flannery who is expected to appear in Sydney's Central Local Court on May 15. Flannery's LinkedIn profile claims that he works for Tenable Network Security, a Maryland-based company, but a company spokesman said that he had never been employed there, and the company doesn't have an office in Sydney. Pictures of the convicted hacker, who goes by "Aush0k" on the internet, resemble those found of Flannery.

LulzSec is an offshoot of the more well-known hacker group Anonymous, and helped launch a "cyber war" in 2010 in response to attempts to shut down the Wikileaks website. That collaboration with Julia Assange is detailed in a book on Anonymous. Since, LulzSec has hacked the CIA, Sony Pictures, Nintendo, and 20th Century Fox.

LulzSec stands for "Lulz Security" (as in "lol at security"), and is known among hackers for their constant boasting of successful hacks on their Twitter account, which hasn't been active recently. The group members are sometimes considered hacktivists. Although difficult to define exactly, the term generally refers to someone who hacks to create social change, although the name carries some negative connotations.

Whether or not LulzSec actually acts as a force for social change is debatable. Some consider the hacking of major corporations and government organizations a form of modern protest, while others think LulzSec does the hacks for laughs and bragging rights. LulzSec often tweeted bragging comments, like " PayPal accounts? We threw them on the GROOOOUUUUUND!"

However, the Australian government believes that these hacking activities are more serious. According to AFP Cyber Crimes Commander Glen McEwen, "The ability to interrupt online trading, online transactions for governments, can have serious consequences in the long-term."

So will the alleged LulzSec leader get prison time? Possibly. Another hacker with LulzSec, Cody Andrew Kretsinger, who called himself "recursion" online, was sentenced to a year of home detention and ordered to pay $605,663 in restitution for the attack on Sony Pictures. He pleaded guilty at his trial. Raynaldo Rivera, another hacker charged in the Sony Pictures case, won't go on trial until May 16.