Jailed Lulzsec hacker Ryan Cleary is due to be released within three weeks, but his access to the internet will be severely restricted after he was convicted of possessing child abuse images – at least some of which featured infants as young as six months old.
Cleary, 21, of Wickford, Essex, has already served more than half the 32-month sentence he received in May for offences linked to the infamous LulzSec hacktivist crew. His main role in the LulzSec mayhem was supplying a botnet of around 100,000 compromised computers that acted as a platform to blitz targeted websites with junk traffic.
The Asperger's Syndrome sufferer, known online as ViraL, had apparently built up a botnet of 100,000 compromised (zombie) PCs over a period of five years. Even though he wasn't one of the core members of LulzSec, Cleary was allegedly also involved in the collective's hacking into the Pentagon* before police arrested him in June 2011.
A forensic examination of Cleary's computers subsequently discovered 172 indecent images of children, including some of infants as young as six months old.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to two counts of making indecent images and one of possessing indecent images. These included 58 level four images (as measured on the SAP scale), 44 level three images, 10 level two images and 60 level one pictures, the Daily Mail reports.
Judge Deborah Taylor imposed a three-year community service order on Cleary for these offences on Wednesday. She also placed strict controls on his access to the internet, as well as ordering him to sign the sex offenders' register for five years and banning him from working with children.
London's Southwark Crown Court heard that because of the amount of time Cleary had already spent behind bars, either on remand or serving his sentence for offences under the Computer Misuse Act, he would be released from prison on 7 July.
Under the terms of his five-year Sexual Offences Prevention Order, Cleary's internet access will be severely restricted and he is banned from using the internet to talk to anyone under 16, The Guardian reports.
He also admitted two counts of conspiracy to commit an unauthorised act, or acts with intent to impair, or with recklessness as to impairing, the operation of a computer or computers.
Cleary had lived under court-imposed restrictions for 18 months, more than half his sentence. He was recalled to jail last year for breaching his bail conditions by messaging Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka Sabu, who has been fingered by the FBI as the leader of Lulzsec.
Handing down Cleary's sentence, Judge Taylor said: "Some of these images showed children aged as young as six months old in circumstances where they were completely vulnerable. These images were such as would make any right-minded person concerned at you viewing such images.
“I have also taken into account that although the sentencing guidelines recommend an immediate custodial sentence, time has been served in any event," she added.
During a hearing in May the court heard that Cleary is not "a career sexual pervert", as his defence told the court that the 172 indecent images were downloaded in a single session to his computer.
Cleary was originally sentenced to two years and eight months for his part in the Lulzsec hacking conspiracy.
"Ryan deeply regrets his involvement in these matters and is keen to move forward with his life and put this case behind him," said Karen Todner, of Kaim Todner solicitors.
More coverage of the disposal of Cleary's case can be found in reports by The Independent here. ®
*Kaim Todner, Cleary's solicitors, said that last month they "do not anticipate" that their client will become the subject of a US extradition request. Nothing has happened since to suggest otherwise.