Busted: Brit Faces Hacking Charges

Friday, June 15, 2012 @ 03:06 PM gHale


A 20-year-old UK resident is facing charges in the U.S. for breaking into websites for a Fox reality TV show, a venerable news show and other sites to deface them or steal personal information, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

A federal grand jury indicted Ryan Cleary on conspiracy and hacking charges for hacking sites for the talent competition “The X-Factor,” the site for “PBS NewsHour,” Sony Pictures and others. Police said Cleary has links to the hacking group Lulz Security (LulzSec).

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The indictment said Cleary and his co-conspirators would identify security vulnerabilities in companies’ computer systems and use them to gain unauthorized access and, often, cause mayhem.

In a separate and similar case filed against Cleary in the United Kingdom in 2011, he faces allegations he and others hacked a law enforcement agency, the Serious Organized Crime Agency, and various British music sites. He did all of this while he was in his teens, police said.

Police took Cleary into custody in March in the United Kingdom where he remains today, said Laura Eimiller, FBI spokeswoman.

In one instance, the U.S. indictment said Cleary conspired to steal the confidential information of people who registered to get information on auditions for the Fox talent competition “The X-Factor.”

LulzSec first took credit for that hack. LulzSec is an offshoot of the larger hacking group Anonymous.

Later that month, LulzSec said it hacked the website of the Public Broadcasting Service, where they posted a phony news story saying the dead rapper Tupac Shakur was alive and living in New Zealand.

The post caused a stir on the site for “PBS NewsHour,” an award-winning broadcast news show, and came after the network aired a documentary on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange the hacking group deemed critical. PBS’ ombudsman at the time defended the program’s treatment of Assange as “tough but proper.”

The indictment also alleges LulzSec and Cleary hacked into the computer systems of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. in June 2011 to steal confidential information of users who had registered on the company’s website.

Cleary faces a maximum of 25 years if convicted on all charges.



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