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U.K. police arrest teen with alleged LulzSec ties

The 18-year-old man could be "Topiary," a key member of LulzSec, reports claim. He has been charged with five offenses related to Web-based attacks.

A LulzSec self-portrait.

A U.K. teenager has been charged with five criminal offenses in connection with computer crimes associated with the LulzSec hacking group.

According to London police, Jake Davis, an 18-year-old man, was charged yesterday with gaining unauthorized access to a computer system, encouraging and assisting criminal offenses, and conspiracy to carry out a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on the Web site of the U.K.'s Serious Organized Crime Agency. He has also been charged with two other counts of conspiracy, both tied to the U.K.'s Computer Misuse Act.

London's Metropolitan Police didn't say today which hacking organizations, if any, Davis is aligned with. However, IDG News is reporting that a police spokesman said Davis is a prominent member of LulzSec and Anonymous who goes by the nickname "Topiary." The Metropolitan Police also confirmed that claim to The Wall Street Journal.

According to a subsequent Associated Press story, Davis has been released on bail by the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court in London. He is scheduled to return to court on August 30. Until then, Davis is not allowed to access the Internet.

In a statement to CNET, a Metropolitan Police spokesman said that it wouldn't "speculate" about Davis' alleged activities.

"I'm afraid that, given court proceedings are now active, it would be inappropriate for us to speculate over who the man charged--Jake Davis--might be," the Metropolitan Police spokesman said. "It is up to the court to decide."

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Last week, U.K. police announced that they had arrested an 18-year-old man with ties to both Anonymous and LulzSec. At the time, the law enforcement agency said that the man used the name "Topiary."

However, following that arrest, the U.K.'s Daily Tech reported that chat logs had surfaced on the Web between someone who claimed to be Topiary and another person, prompting some to wonder whether Metropolitan Police had arrested the wrong person.

Topiary, who had been a frequent spokesperson for the "hacktivist" organizations, has been silent on Twitter since a July 22 message that said "you cannot arrest an idea." Topiary is also believed to have run LulzSec's Twitter feed, which has been dormant since July 27--the same day Metropolitan Police announced its first arrest.

This morning, AnonymousIRC, a Twitter account with ties to the hacktivist organization, cited a tweet from Laurie Penny, a reporter for the New Statesman, who was present at Davis' court hearing. Although Penny used "Davis" in her tweet, AnonymousIRC called him Topiary.

"According to @PennyRed Topiary came out of court with shades and a copy of 'Free Radicals: the Secret Anarchy of Science,'" AnonymousIRC wrote on its Twitter account. "Sail hard, Matey!"

That tweet was followed by another show of support from AnonymousIRC.

"Stay strong, @atopiary," AnonymousIRC tweeted. "We will continue this, as your last tweet is truth. We, the people, silent no more."

Davis has joined a growing number of people arrested for alleged international hacking activities. In June, Metropolitan Police arrested 19-year-old Ryan Cleary on hacking charges. Cleary was charged with five counts of hacking in the U.K., and has also been released on bail with several conditions, including a 7 p.m. to 9 a.m. local time curfew and electronic tagging. Cleary can only leave his home in the company of one of his parents and is not allowed to have any device that can access the Internet.

Last month, law enforcement officials in the U.S. arrested 16 people on hacking charges. Four others in the Netherlands and a 16-year-old London-based man have also been arrested. Many of those defendants have been charged with involvement in last year's DDoS attacks on PayPal following the company's decision to suspend WikiLeaks' account.

Updated at 5:25 a.m. PT to include more details.