July 28, 2011 at 12:04 PM ET
Hacker cat-and-mouse games are par for the course, and now some are wondering whether British police arrested the real "Topiary," a key member and spokesperson of LulzSec, which is allied with the Anonymous group of hackers. At this stage of the Internet saga, separating truth from deception is becoming as much a part of the story as the attacks on government and corporation websites.
On Thursday, the "Web Ninjas" group that has long tracked activities of both LulzSec and Anonymous, said on its website, LulzSec Exposed, they believe police "got the wrong guy and it happens because of lot of disinformation floating on (the) Web. LulzSec and Anonymous members are Master trolls and they are good at this."
Hacker subterfuge is part-and-parcel of the game, and trying to fool law enforcement and the media is always an added bonus. Some believe that some of the arrests made so far in the hunt for hackers have been erroneous, based on false leads.
So is it Topiary? We asked the experts.
"Executive summary: how the hell would we know?" Graham Cluley, of international security firm Sophos, told msnbc.com.
The senior technology consultant, who is well-versed in the world of hackers, raised the question as well in a blog post Thursday, "Topiary: Have the police arrested the right man?" After weighing the merits of the information that's out there, this is what Cluley said:
"If you ask me, is the man they arrested in the Shetland Islands is Topiary, another hacker (either working in league with Anonymous/LulzSec or opposing them), or entirely innocent ... my simple answer is I don't know."
Lulz Sec Exposed contends, "We have collected enough evidence on Topiary and everything points" to a 23-year-old Swedish man. "The voice has been matched from his Swedish Anonymous interview to other interviews."
LulzSec Exposed shares various details about Topiary at this link, including some YouTube videos of him giving interviews while representing Anonymous. You can hear for yourself whether you think the voices match.
"Two weeks back, Topiary tried to mislead us with some email conversations to make us believe that Topiary is a UK guy named Daniel Chatfield," the group said. "We didn't fall for that Troll and then he deleted all his comments on our blog." As with many twists in this story, it's not clear if this "Daniel Chatfield" even exists.
Eweek noted that "Just to muddy the waters even further, the Web Ninjas also doxed the leader of LulzSec, who goes by the name of Sabu, as a Portuguese network technician named Hugo Carvalho. However, this claim seems to be called into doubt and there is an ongoing dialogue between the Ninjas and Carvalho in which he is providing the group with proof that he is not involved with LulzSec at all."
The "Lulz" in LulzSec's name is Internet speak for michevious or malicious laughs, something the group of supposedly six members has emphasized from its hack of PBS to Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper website last week, when it posted a fake page with a story about Murdoch being found dead.
Most thought LulzSec was gone from the scene when it announced last month it was stepping back to work with Anonymous in efforts to hack government and corporate websites the group deems corrupt. The joint effort is known as "AntiSec," or anti-security.
The latest reports, about Topiary, however, raise more questions than answers.
"This open and shut case might not be so open and shut," said the Daily Tech.