Were Police Duped Into Arresting the Wrong Hacking Mastermind?

Scotland Yard says they arrested the 19-year-old leader of the hacking group Lulz Security, a hacker with the nickname "Topiary," in Scotland's Shetland Islands. But the internet, goaded on by idiot vigilantes, seems to think they have the wrong guy.

There's a rumor shooting around the hot tech blogs that Topiary isn't the 19-year-old Scottish guy currently being questioned by police in London. No, they say, actually he's a 23-year-old Swedish student named Daniel Akerman who deceived the cops into thinking he was a 19-year-old Scottish guy. Stupid cops!

But over Skype, Akerman said he was not secretly the spokesman of the world's most notorious hacking group. He already went to the Swedish police today to tell them about what was going on, and this was the first they'd heard about it. Akerman did not sound like a man on the brink of being arrested for enormous computer crime. (But maybe he's just that good!)

We won't go too deep into how this conspiracy theory started, because it is as boring as it is bullshit. It was first floated by a group of clowns known as the "Web Ninjas." This should have been proof it wasn't true, since the Web Ninjas were also behind the bogus rumor that a random Portuguese guy was the LulzSec leader Sabu. Also, they call themselves the Web Ninjas.

The Web Ninjas first floated the accusation in June that Topiary was Akerman, whose internet footprint consists mostly of Zelda fan YouTube videos. The Web Ninjas apparently latched onto Akerman's previous involvement in anti-Scientology activism; he appeared in a 2008 Swedish documentary about the Church of Scientology, as a protestor aligned with the hacktivist group Anonymous. Though Akerman says he's not a hacker, this got his name and face into the hacking ether, which led to the Web Ninjas linking him to Topiary—a rumor the real Topiary was happy to stoke on Twitter.

The main "proof" is a single chat log, where Topiary appeared to worry that he had been correctly identified as Sandberg, then concocted a scheme to pin his identity on a random Scottish kid instead. "So now we troll him and hope he's getting raided," he allegedly said. Also, Topiary sounded a little bit like Akerman in interviews.

Akerman said after the rumors and chat log surfaced he began getting strange hacking-related Facebook requests and messages. Some guy in Mexico even offered to pay him to hack a website that was causing him problems.

"At that point, I was pretty much like, I'm just going to ignore it because it doesn't really matter—it's the internet there's a lot of unconfirmed stuff," he said. "I can say, Hey it's not me, but people aren't going to listen to me."

And now he's being accused of being a hacking mastermind by no less than MSNBC and Yahoo! News. (To add insult to injury, they're spelling his name wrong: "Ackerman.") Is it too much to ask to call up a guy before you accuse him of being an international hacker?