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British hacker could face serious prison time in U.S.

A British man already charged in the United Kingdom with several computer crimes is facing similar charges in the United States. Ryan Cleary has been charged with hacking into a computer system belonging to Sony Pictures Entertainment last year. His alleged goal was to obtain information about users of the computer system. He has also been charged with conspiring to steal personal information about people who registered on the web site of the X-Factor, a popular reality show, and the systems of the PBS Newshour.

The charges against him in the UK include conspiring to destroy the websites of the CIA and the British Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca). He is alleged to have created with three others a "botnet" of virus-infected PCs to attack and crash these websites. Other objects of his attacks include the National Health Service (NHS), News International, Sony, Nintendo, 20th Century Fox, and several US computer security companies.

Cleary, who has been diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, may not be required to come to the United States for trial. It remains to be seen whether the UK will extradite Cleary or whether he may be able to stand trial in the UK. If convicted on all the charges, Cleary may face 25 years in prison. Until now, the longest prison sentence imposed in the United States for a cyber-crime is 20 years. Albert Gonzalez was convicted in New Jersey for hacking into the TJX and stealing details of 90 million credit cards.

Mr. Cleary is alleged to be involved with LulzSec, a group of hackers that disbanded after being investigated by international law enforcement agencies for its high-profile data thefts.

Source: The Guardian, ""Alleged LulzSec hacker may escape extradition to US," by Charles Arthur, June 15, 2012.

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