Sydney youth charged with ‘Anonymous’ hacking


news The Australian Federal Police said on Friday afternoon that a 17-year-old youth suspected of being a member of the rogue Internet activist collective ‘Anonymous’ had appeared in Parramatta Children’s Court on charges related to “unauthorised access to computer data”.

‘Anonymous’ is not a formal organisation but is a loose-knit collective of Internet activists who commonly commit denial of service attacks or break into online systems with a view to punishing organisations which they believe are not giving global citizens fair treatment. The organisation has been active in Australia and in targeting Australian organisations for some time.

For example, in September 2010 Anonymous conducted a denial of service attack against the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft, which at that stage was involved in a high-profile lawsuit against national broadband provider iiNet. Similarly, in July 2012 Anonymous published some 3.5 gigabytes of data sourced from Australian telco AAPT, in protest against a wide-ranging package of surveillance and data retention reforms currently proposed by the Federal Government. It has also been engaged in attacks against the Federal Government itself.

“A 17-year-old youth appeared in Parramatta Children’s Court on Friday (5 April 2013) to face charges relating to unauthorised access to computer data,” the Australian Federal Police said in a media release issued last week. “The juvenile is suspected to be a member of the online issue motivated group “Anonymous” and allegedly committed serious offences on their behalf.”

Commander Glen McEwen, Manager Cybercrime Operations, said the AFP took any computer intrusion offences very seriously and remained committed to investigating offences that occur in cyberspace.

“Protesting through computer intrusions and website defacements is not an appropriate method to raise public awareness about any issue,” McEwen said. “The AFP investigates various types of cybercrime and will continue to take a strong stance against these perpetrators.”

The AFP executed a search warrant at the youth’s premises in Glenmore Park, NSW in November 2012. The youth was subsequently charged with the following offences: Six counts of unauthorised modification of data to cause impairment, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; One count of unauthorised access with intent to commit a serious offence, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment; One count of possession of data with intent to commit a computer offence, which carries a maximum penalty of 3 years imprisonment; and
Twelve counts of unauthorised access to restricted data, which carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment. The youth is scheduled to appear again in the Parramatta Children’s Court on 17 May 2013.

The AFP and other Australian police forces have targeted so-called ‘hackers’ on a number of occasions over the past few years for suspected illegal actvitity online. However, the law enforcement authorities have not always been able to lay concrete charges about the activity.

For example, in mid-2009, the Victorian and Australian Federal Police raised a suspected Internet fraudster based in Melbourne, in a high-profile move which was broadcast in a high-profile television episode of the ABC’s Four Corners show. However, six months later the Australian Federal Police was forced to admit that it didn’t intend to actually take any concrete action against the individual, with the raid netting the AFP no ability to make arrests.

As hard this feels to believe to me now (I’m 32 years of age), I was 17 once and getting myself into plenty of low-level trouble poking around on the Internet and the local networks of my school and then university. I suspect a lot of IT-savvy youngsters are like that, and this is always how I’ve seen the Anonymous network; not a really serious criminal organisation, but more like an activist group; using today’s technological tools to make political points and protest against unfair authority rather than creating actual serious damage.

I don’t know what this Sydney youth has done; although I suspect that will come out shortly in their court case. However, what I do know from dealing with it extensively over the past decade is that the Australian Federal Police tends to be a little heavy-handed and not very nuanced in matters relating to “cyber-hacking” and so on. I don’t think the AFP would be inclined to cut this suspected member of ‘Anonymous’ any leniency. The AFP doesn’t usually have much of a sense of humour.

To my mind, however, everyone involved in this situation should keep in mind that this individual is quite young — just 17 years of age. And they haven’t likely been involved in criminal activity for a profit; likely their alleged crimes are ones representing political protect rather than a commercial endeavour.

With this in mind, I hope everyone involved in this case doesn’t get too serious about it. Someone who is a member of ‘Anonymous’ at 17 is very likely an intelligent and sensitive person with great skills and potential — in the long-term, I suspect many young people like this will make excellent, stable and highly societally aware members of the IT industry. Let’s not go too far and cut off their future life before it really begins.

Image credit: Vincent Diamante, Creative Commons


  1. Well said Renai.

    We can only hope that “Youth” who based on his age should appear in the Childrens Court will be treated in the more sympathetic tradition of that institution than the eye for an eye tradition that seems to exist in the AFP.

    • It depends upon the crime. If, say, this kid was involved in a crime which involved the theft of literally millions of credit cards and email addresses (which were then on-sold to spammers), in an attack like that on Sony’s Playstation market… then I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever and hope he gets made an example of. Theft like this is high cost, has a huge impact to companies and individuals, is targeted and is well beyond “just being a 17 year old”. There’s no excuse for knowing what the consequences are for this type of hack.

      If however the guy has just defaced the odd website or just been caught up in something like the attacks against the Westborough church (the guys who go to funerals and hold up placards saying the recently deceased is going to hell), then I have every sympathy in the world.

      • Westborough church

        Westboro Baptist Church.

        And for reference, I in no way agree with anything WBC says, however Anonymous attacking them in anyway means they are going against their very foundation.

        You might remember around the start of 2011 WBC faked a letter that Anonymous supposedly sent to them, Anonymous response contained their basic moral standing .. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”. Refer ..

        Right now the Anonymous attacks on WBC are based on them calling for protests at the funerals of the Sandy Hook children, yes I completely disagree with that and think it’s a disgusting thing for them to do, but, it’s free speech, and US law allows for them to do these protests.

        Simply put, Anonymous have lost their way, they used to have a good reason to do what they did and it was hard to disagree with them, now they’re targeting people who disagree with the groups personal “morals” for no particular reason then be done with them as far as I’m concerned.

  2. I wouldn’t be calling Anonymous an “organisation”. Anonymous is better described as an internet subculture. A label that anyone can attach to themselves whenever they feel like it for any reason whatsoever, and not just for internet-related activities.

    • “‘Anonymous’ is not a formal organisation but is a loose-knit collective of Internet activists”

      I think I covered it fairly well.

  3. Hopefully the youth in question will be contacted soon by DSD regarding an internship :)

  4. “actvitity” = activity.
    “Federal Police raised” = raided.
    “representing political protect” = protest.


  5. Also, they are going to have to change their name from ‘Anonymous’ to ‘Notorious’ as they really are failing they whole anonymity thing.

  6. The AFP have stupidly in this instance tried to ‘spin’ the press release by stating that this minor is a member of “Anonymous” for the sole purpose of trying to place fear in the minds of readers and absolutely conflating the issue with the intent to make the reader conclude that Anonymous itself is some sort of criminal and/or unlawful group.

    The fact of the matter is that being a member of anonymous (if one could be) is neither illegal nor unlawful under Australian law, and in no way what soever should be a part of a press release about the arrest of anyone, otherwise for equitable purposes all AFP press releases henceforth should now state if the alleged offender (and also the Officer In Charge of Investigation as well) is a member of the Liberal, Labour, Green or Communist party (or any other political party) or in fact if they have ever been a member of a chess club or similar, since it means exactly the same thing.

    It’s wrongful and basically FUD for the purpose of political and community condemnation before due process is able to be enacted.

    As for the maximum 10 year penalties (only two offenses carry max of 10, the rest carry 3 and 2 respectively) this minor will in no way ever be sentenced to the maximum sentences.. neither would any adult within Australia since the courts do not recognize (no matter what the prosecution or politicians scream about) that these acts warrant these maximum sentences. Also being a minor within NSW he comes under the Young Offenders Act and those maximums are not even in the realm of possibilities. Actually unless he has absolutely incompetent counsel and then pleads guilty he would get at most a suspended sentence of 2yrs for all offenses if that. Though I’d be highly skeptical of even that severe a sentence in this instance and for him serving any time at all in a Juvenile Detention Center other than on remand would be grounds for appeal.

    Also this being held in Children’s Court (Local at moment.. might go to District) it is a highly closed court to the public and other than reporters (who have been approved by Childrens Court) the ability to get much information will be few and far between, with ALL reporters (and commentators… blogs included) also having major legal obligations and liabilities to contend with when talking about this case.

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