Last updated: April 9, 2013 7:47 pm

LulzSec hacker pleads guilty

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A masked hacker, part of the Anonymous group©AFP

A member of the LulzSec hacking group has admitted conspiring to launch cyber attacks on leading institutions including Sony, the National Health Service, News International and Nintendo.

Ryan Ackroyd, 26, from Doncaster in South Yorkshire, admitted plotting with others to impair the operation of a computer or computers by hacking the organisations and other targets, a court heard on Tuesday.

Mr Ackroyd was due to stand trial at Southwark Crown Court but pleaded guilty to one charge on the day his trial was due to start. Prosecutors are not planning to pursue other charges against him.

Sandip Patel, prosecuting, told the court that the defendant had acknowledged he was a member of LulzSec and a hacker.

Mr Ackroyd will be sentenced on May 14.

The court also was told that three other fellow hackers had pleaded guilty at earlier court hearings to conspiring to attack organisations including the CIA and the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Ryan Cleary, 21, of Wickford in Essex pleaded guilty to six counts including hacking into the Pentagon’s computer system.

Jake Davis, 20, of the Shetland Islands, and Mustafa al-Bassam, 18, of Peckham in London pleaded guilty to two counts including conspiracy to carry out so-called distributed denial of service attacks – flooding the websites of targets including Sony and the CIA with hundreds of thousands of requests for information in order to make them crash.

Targets also included Westboro Baptist Church, which has attracted attention in the US for its controversial views on homosexuality.

The three men, including Mr al-Bassam, who can be named for the first time, are due to be sentenced on the same day as Mr Ackroyd. The offences all took place in 2011 but no further detail about the attacks was given in the brief court hearing.

LulzSec, which has claimed responsibility for dozens of cyber attacks, is an offshoot of Anonymous, a loose collective of internet “hactivists”.

In internet slang, LulzSec can be interpreted as an amalgam of “laughs” and “security”. In 2011, the group claimed to have attacked the website of News International’s Sun newspaper at the height of the phone hacking scandal, in what it claimed was the beginning of a revenge attack on Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

It redirected visitors on the website of The Sun to another hijacked site, running a fake news story claiming that Mr Murdoch had died. The site later redirected to LulzSec’s Twitter page, where it claimed credit for the attack.

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