SHETLAND computer hacker Jake Davis has been sentenced to two years in a young offenders’ institution at Southwark Crown Court for his part in launching a number of high profile cyber attacks.
The 20 year old, who was brought up in Yell, had been bailed to an address in Spalding, Lincolnshire, for the last two years.
He had previously pled guilty to charges of conspiring to bring down the websites of law enforcement authorities in Britain and the US, including the CIA, between February and September 2011.
He and two other members of the hacking group LulzSec had also pled guilty to attempting to break into computers run by the NHS, Sony, 20th Century Fox and News International.
Davis, who was known as Topiary, was arrested in July 2011 at his new home in Lerwick’s Hoofields by a special squad of police officers who flew up to the isles.
Working from his bedroom at his mother’s house in the village of Mid Yell, Davis was operating and storing data on a complex and powerful hard drive which included 16 virtual computers.
He and his three co-accused, 21 year old Ryan Cleary, 26 year old Ryan Ackroyd (who only pled guilty to one count of hacking) and 18 year old Mustafa Al-Bassam, caused tens of millions of pounds of damage to the organisations targeted.
Cleary was sentenced to 32 months in jail and Ackroyd to 30 months, while Al-Bassam, who was 16 at the time, received a 20 month sentence suspended for two years plus 300 hours of unpaid work.
The offences carried a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The group stole hundreds of thousands of personal data from websites and published them on file sharing websites such as Pirate Bay.
The name LulzSec is a combination of the acronym ‘lol’ (meaning: laugh out loud) and security.
They were also behind a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks when a website is targeted with huge amount of traffic that forces it to close down.
The court heard that Davis had 750,000 items of stolen data when arrested, including passwords, addresses and credit card details.
Davis was also behind writing a story about the suicide of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch and placing it on the Sun newspaper’s website.
Sentencing Davis, judge Deborah Taylor acknowledged that the hackers were not seeking financial rewards for their actions but added that their attacks had been planned and sustained.
“The name LulzSec encapsulates your desires to cause embarrassment and disruption,” she told Davis according to BBC journalist Andrew Plant who was at the sentencing.
On Wednesday, during the mitigation submissions by the defense, Simon Mayo QC representing Davis, described the 20 year old as of an unstable background who felt isolated in his island village and sought solace in cyberspace.
The QC said Davis was a reformed character who had since got involved in the London culture scene and had also written about his ‘Life after Anonymous’.
One who knew him when he was still a school kid at Mid Yell junior high school is Daniel Lawson who now studies in Glasgow.
Reacting to the sentence, Lawson said on Thursday: “I am glad to hear that he didn’t get the full sentence.
“Hopefully he will get a good education where he is just now, and will come out as a reformed person. I wish him all the best.”
Last month, Lawson published a blog (I knew Jake Davis before it was cool!) in which he recounts their time in school.
He said: “Jake never had to struggle to amuse us, and was quite often the life and soul of class discussions.
“However, he was shy most of the time, and a tragic death in his family seemed to add to his confidence issues. Jake stopped coming to school regularly in Secondary 2, and then after a while stopped coming altogether.
“His house, literally down the road from the school, became where he spent nearly all of his time, and neither I nor most other folk in my class saw him again.
“We heard he had grown a beard and was amongst the top 3 Halo players in the world on the Xbox. He always was good with computers…”
Davis is likely to serve only half of his sentence.
There is an indictment against Davis in the US, but it was not clear yet whether the US authorities will request extradition.