With FBI raid, law enforcement circles LulzSec

A raid in Hamilton, Ohio, has been linked to the hacking group

Time may be running out for the members of LulzSec as police continue to step up their inquiries into the hacking group.

On Monday, the U.S. Federal Bureau of investigation executed a search warrant at a Hamilton, Ohio, residence -- a raid that local media has linked to the ongoing investigation of LulzSec. The raid comes two days after LulzSec ended a 50-day hacking rampage by posting internal documents belonging to AT&T and data stolen from gaming forums and a NATO website.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Michael Brooks, a spokesman with the FBI's Cincinnati office, said a raid had occurred Monday at an address on Jackson Road, Hamilton, but he would neither confirm nor deny that the arrest is linked to LulzSec. The warrant in the case is under seal and the name of the person questioned by the FBI has not been released.

Last week, police in the U.K. arrested Ryan Cleary of Wickford, Essex, thought to be the operator of the group's IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server, and they have also reportedly questioned another person, Laurelai Bailey, in connection with the group.

On Monday, one of LulzSec's leaders, known as Topiary, deleted his Twitter messages and said he was "sailing off."

Groups calling themselves the A Team and LulzSec Exposed have popped up in recent days and started posting information on the group's members -- all of which is being vetted by the FBI, according to a source familiar with the matter.

In fact, LulzSec itself may have been the impetus for Monday's raid. Last week the group turned against two of its former members and published personal information about them, saying they were responsible for computer crimes and encouraging the FBI to investigate. LulzSec was angry because it believed the two had published chat logs exposing some of its inner workings.

One of those two, who uses the hacker names [redacted] and m_nerva, was a resident of Hamilton, Ohio -- the town where Monday's search warrant was executed.

LulzSec has been the target of an international law enforcement search after the group hacked websites belonging to U.K. Serious Organised Crime Agency, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service, Sony, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and several FBI-affiliated groups.

It was this mounting pressure from law enforcement that finally caused LulzSec to disband, said E.J. Hilbert, president of Online Intelligence and a former FBI agent who has been following the group closely. "LulzSec was a group of punk kids out to have some fun that just kept pushing and pushing and they took it too far," he said.

Several members have already been in contact with law enforcement, Hilbert said. "Their members will be picked off one by one if they haven't already been, and I know some of them already have been," he said.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's e-mail address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com

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