LulzSec Now Has a Face: Meet Jake Davis

An attorney describes hacker Jake Davis, known online as Topiary, as "perfectly charming"

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The faceless, nameless, leaderless organization LulzSec is no longer faceless or nameless. Jake Davis, who calls himself Topiary online, appeared in British court on Monday to face five computer hacking-related charges and revealed his identity for the first time. Best known for his role as the voice of LulzSec, an offshoot of the Anonymous hacking group, Davis spoke only once in court--in what must have been a moment of poignant irony--to reveal his name and address.

Jake Davis looks a lot like you might think a hacker would look. The 18-year-old showed up for his court hearing with disheveled, somewhat glossy hair and his eyes shielded by Matrix-sleek sunglasses. Clutching a copy of Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science prominently, Davis was ready to have his picture taken--he even held up the just released book by Michael Brooks to show reporters at one point. This was presumably the first time Davis had interacted with anyone besides his lawyers and the police since he was arrested along with his 17-year-old brother Josh last Wednesday afternoon at his home in Mid Yell, a northern island in the remote Shetland archipelago. According to interviews with his grandfather, Davis has spent much of the past year in his bedroom chatting with friends in the U.S. on his computer. "I just don't see him getting involved in anything criminal, he is not politically minded and I do not know why he would want to be a computer hacker," Davis' grandfather told the Daily Mail, who described the young hacker as "autistic." "I am certain that if he was involved in something, which I don’t think he was, then he did not know what he was doing."

The hearing took place in the same room as that of fellow LulzSec-affiliate Ryan Cleary, who was arrested on similar charges in June and described as a "co-defendant" during Davis's hearing. Despite speculation that police may have arrested the wrong hacker, Forbes blogger Parmy Olson's description of the prosecution's testimony leaves little doubt:

Prosecutor [Rav] Chodha said the officers who arrested Davis found a Dell laptop running 40 different applications. Among them were a host of folders including one containing details of pre-paid cards in false names, a folder titled “Noms” which included a text file of LulzSec activity, and a folder with user details and passwords of 750,000 random members of the public.

Chodha said the laptop had a 100 GB encrypted-hard drive with 16 separate “small computers” – presumably virtual machines, or VMs – each operating independently of one another.

The prosecution also revealed that Davis wrote the fake Sun article a couple of weeks ago claiming Rupert Murdoch was dead. Davis had left a clue, saying that Murdoch's body was found in his "famous topiary garden."

The judge released Davis on bail under the condition that he wear a tracking device and not access the Internet. Based on his defense attorney's statements, it seems like there's a chance Davis might be willing to cooperate with police. "The picture that emerges is not of a skilled and persistent hacker, but someone that sympathizes and publicizes and acts as a repository for information hacked by others," said defense attorney Gideon Cammerman. Asked how Davis acted in his five days of police custody, Cammerman responded, "He was perfectly charming."

Davis is now headed to his family's new home in Spalding, Lincolnshire, where he'll wait for his next hearing on August 30. Though he'll be offline for the foreseeable future, Davis's name and likeness is now making its way around hacker circles in the form of tribute art. His face is already a meme:

(Image via exiledsurfer)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.