British activist Lauri Love charged with hacking US army database

Joint investigation leads to arrest of  28-year-old at his home in Suffolk village
  • @kunaldutta

A young activist with ties to the Occupy movement has been arrested at his home in Suffolk and charged with hacking into US government systems including Nasa, the Army and the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency in an alleged effort to steal confidential data.

Lauri Love, a former student at Glasgow University, was charged in New Jersey with allegedly infiltrating thousands of US computer systems from his home in the village of Stradishall in East Anglia.

The 28-year-old was arrested by officers from the UK's National Crime Agency after an international investigation led by the US army's criminal investigation command. News of the arrest emerged after prosecutors filed an indictment in a court in New Jersey accusing him and three unnamed co-conspirators, believed to live in Australia and Sweden, with disrupting the operation and infrastructure of US government.

Mr Love was described in the indictment as a "sophisticated and prolific computer hacker with specialist knowledge in gaining access to the computer networks of large organisations, including government agencies."

He is understood to have studied physics, maths and computing at Glasgow University and was active in Scotland during the Occupy protests that erupted in cities around the world in 2011.

In one online chat dated October 7, 2012, and described in the indictment, Love discussed the hacking of an Army Corps database that might have yielded 400,000 email addresses, and asked a co-conspirator to "grab one email for curiosity."

He told another alleged co-conspirator on July 31, 2013, after a hacking: "This ... stuff is really sensitive. ... It's basically every piece of information you'd need to do full identity theft on any employee or contractor for the (agency)," the indictment said.

The charge comes at a sensitive time for US-European relations, amid the stream of European surveillance revelations by America's National Security Agency that have been disclosed by Edward Snowden.  It also coincides with the effort of Tory MPs to reform the extradition treaty with America to give more protection to Britons such as Gary McKinnon, who successfully fought extradition to the US after a 10-year legal battle.

US attorney Paul Fishman, who announced the charges, said: "As part of their alleged scheme, they stole military data and personal identifying information belonging to servicemen and women. Such conduct endangers the security of our country and is an affront to those who serve."

Love, who has not been charged in the UK, has been released on bail until February. On Monday, Mr Love said he could not comment on the case. "I only just got home after being at government headquarters today,” he told reporters outside his four-bedroom semi-detached home, which he shares with his parents in Suffolk. "I don't even know what's happening myself to be honest, I need to call my lawyers.

"My dad is ill and my parents both work at the prison so it wouldn't be fair on them to talk about what's going on with all this just at this moment. My dad has a heart problems and I'm not well myself."

Mr Love's father Alexander Love, 50, works as a vicar at HMP Highpoint North and his mother Sirkka-Liisa Love, 49, works at the same prison as a teacher.

Neighbour Keith Strudwick, 32, said: "They are a really nice family. I don't know much about Lauri, but he seems alright and he's been brought up by good parents."

Another neighbour reported seeing police remove a computer from Mr Love's home on Friday evening.

Andy Archibald, spokesman for the NCA, said: "This arrest is the culmination of close joint working by the NCA, Police Scotland and our international partners. Cybercriminals should be aware that no matter where in the world you commit cybercrime, even from remote places, you can and will be identified and held accountable for your actions."