LulzSec spokesman "Topiary" nabbed, says Scotland Yard

LulzSec logo over computer chip circuit
LulzSec logo

(CBS/AP) LONDON - Officials said Wednesday that Scotland Yard's cybercrime unit has arrested a teenager they suspect of working as the spokesman for a hacking collective known as Lulz Security.

Police say they arrested the 18-year-old in Scotland's remote Shetland Islands. Although they didn't release his name, police said they believed him to be "Topiary," one of the hacking group's most prominent members.

LulzSec gained notoriety in May with attacks on the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service - whose website it defaced by posting a bogus story claiming that the late rapper Tupac Shakur had been discovered alive in New Zealand.

The group is a spin-off of another hacking group, Anonymous, whose targets have included the Church of Scientology, the music industry, and financial companies including Visa and MasterCard.

Topiary was linked to both groups, serving as the on-again, off-again media liaison for the publicity-hungry hackers.

In his only known television interview, on the "David Pakman Show" earlier this year, Topiary phoned in via Skype to feud with Shirley Phelps-Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas-based group infamous for it's extreme stance against homosexuality and for picketing the funerals of slain American soldiers.

Over the course of the live interview, Anonymous vandalized the church's website.

In conversations with The Associated Press, Topiary said he controlled LulzSec's popular Twitter feed, which was wiped clean Wednesday save for a post from nearly a week ago that read: "You cannot arrest an idea."

LulzSec has claimed responsibility for security breaches at pornography websites, gaming companies, and law enforcement organizations. It's also claimed credit for harassing seemingly random targets including an obscure New Jersey-based magnet manufacturer.

One its most well-known hacks was against Sony Pictures Entertainment. The group posted the usernames, passwords, email addresses and phone numbers of tens of thousands of Sony customers. The group also claimed responsibility for a breach that targeted Arizona's police force, releasing their personal information, in protest against its controversial immigration law.

Shortly thereafter the group announced it was disbanding, although Topiary said 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 in a Skype call. "The press are getting bored of us, and we're getting bored of us."

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 related to the group's attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal Inc., which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks.