British teen arrested in hacking of top US intelligence officials
By MATT ZAPOTOSKY AND ELLEN NAKASHIMA | The Washington Post | Published: February 12, 2016
WASHINGTON — British authorities have arrested a 16-year-old suspected of being involved with a group that hacked into the private email accounts of high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials, according to U.S. officials and British police.
The teen is said to be connected to the cohort that calls itself Crackas With Attitude, which has claimed to have broken into the private email accounts of CIA Director John Brennan and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. What part the teen played is unclear, and U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the case, said they are still investigating the roles of others.
Spokespeople for the FBI and Justice Department declined to comment. The South East Regional Organized Crime Unit — a British police force cooperative — confirmed in a statement it arrested a 16-year-old boy Tuesday on suspicion of three computer-related charges, but would not comment on links to the hacking of American officials. The group said the boy was released on bail until June.
The teen's arrest and connection to the hacks on U.S. intelligence officials was first reported by CNN.
FBI agents and federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia have been investigating Crackas With Attitude for months, working to build a case that they hope might land at least some of them in a U.S. courtroom. The group has been outspoken about their cyber mischief — providing reporters with evidence that they successfully broken into the personal files of top U.S. intelligence officials.
The group is also thought to have leaked the names and work email addresses and phone numbers of thousands of Homeland Security and FBI employees. In that case, none of the email addresses and numbers were personal, but they still could be of use to overseas intelligence agencies.
The teen's arrest is a significant development in the case, although as yet, no one is facing any U.S. charges. The South East Regional Organized Crime Unit said he was arrested on several computer hacking charges. All are violations of the United Kingdom's Computer Misuse Act.
A person claiming to be an American high school student told the New York Post last year that he used "social engineering" to dupe Verizon workers into turning over Brennan's personal information and AOL into resetting his password. The person apparently accessed Brennan's personal email account, which contained a 47-page application for a top-secret security clearance, and he claimed he also listened to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's voice mails. He said he was motivated "by opposition to U.S. foreign policy and support for Palestine," the New York Post reported.
Early this year, a person going by the nickname "Cracka" told the magazine Motherboard that he had accessed a series of accounts linked to Clapper, including his home telephone and Internet, his personal email and his wife's Yahoo email account. The person claimed to have changed the settings on Clapper's home phone number, provided by Verizon FIOS, so that every call would be forwarded to the Free Palestine Movement.