LONDON - Scotland Yard's cybercrime unit has arrested a teenager it suspects of working as the spokesman for the Lulz Security hacking collective, officials said Wednesday.
The Metropolitan Police's Central e-Crime Unit arrested a 19-year-old at an address in Scotland's remote Shetland Islands, the force said in a statement. His name wasn't released, but the force said he was believed to be "Topiary," one of LulzSec's most prominent members.
As reported by ZDNet, Topiary is being transported from the Shetland Islands to a London police station and is expected to face charges related to cybercrime, network intrusions and hacking.
For the past six months Topiary has served as an on-again, off-again spokesman for Anonymous, an amorphous collection of hackers, pranksters and online activists whose targets have included the Church of Scientology, the music industry, and financial companies including Visa and MasterCard.
In his only known television interview, on the "David Pakman Show" earlier this year, Topiary phoned in to feud with Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based group notorious for picketing the funerals of slain American soldiers.
Topiary proved his membership by defacing the church's website live over the course of the interview.
Topiary later joined LulzSec, a group that emerged several months ago with attacks on Fox News and the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service which it defaced by posting a bogus story claiming that the late rapper Tupac Shakur had been discovered alive in New Zealand.
LulzSec then went on to pull off a spectacular breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment, posting the usernames, passwords, email addresses and phone numbers of tens of thousands of people, many of whom had given the company their information for sweepstakes draws. The group went on a rampage, hacking into pornography websites, gaming companies, and harassing seemingly random targets including an obscure New Jersey-based magnet company.
In a particularly stinging series of breaches in late June, the group repeatedly leaked documents, emails, usernames, passwords and telephone numbers of Arizona's police force. Officers had to scramble to change their numbers because their phones were being jammed with calls.
Shortly thereafter the group abruptly announced it was disbanding. Topiary told The Associated Press at the time that the group wasn't bowing to police pressure.
"We're not quitting because we're afraid of law enforcement," he said over Skype by instant message and voice. "The press are getting bored of us, and we're getting bored of us."
Attempts to reach Topiary since then have been unsuccessful, although the group recently re-emerged, defacing The Sun newspaper's website with a fake story claiming that media tycoon Rupert Murdoch had died.
In one of its last messages, LulzSec claimed to be working with unnamed media outlets on a WikiLeaks-style release of emails it claimed to have stolen from the tabloid.
Topiary's once-plentiful Twitter feed was practically wiped clean Wednesday. The only remaining post, from nearly a week ago, read: "You cannot arrest an idea."
The latest arrest is one of an increasing number claimed by law enforcement in Britain and the United States in connection to their investigations into Anonymous and its offshoots. Last week, the FBI, British and Dutch officials carried out 21 arrests, many of them connected to the group's attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal Inc.
Last month another 19-year-old, Ryan Cleary, was charged with attacks on Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency and various U.K.-based music sites. Although at least one of the attacks he was charged with seemed linked to LulzSec, Topiary claimed at the time that Cleary was at most only tangentially involved with the group.
Scotland Yard said Wednesday it was also searching a residential address in Lincolnshire, in central England, and interviewing an unnamed 17-year-old in connection with the investigation. The second teen has not been arrested.