A man has admitted his involvement in a May 2011 computer attack against the website of Sony Pictures Entertainment that was carried out by the now-defunct LulzSec hacker group.
Last week Raynaldo Rivera, 20, of Tempe, Arizona, who used the online aliases of "neuron," "royal" and "wildicv" pleaded guilty in the US District Court for the Central District of California to one count of conspiracy to intentionally cause damage without authorisation to a protected computer.
In his plea agreement, the hacker admitted to joining LulzSec in May 2011 with the intention of helping the group carry out cyberattacks against businesses and government entities from the US and around the world.
He also admitted to launching an SQL injection attack against sonypictures.com that allowed him to extract confidential and personal user information from the website's database. The information was later published online by LulzSec members.
"As a result of defendant's conduct, Sony Pictures suffered losses of approximately $605,663.67 during the one year period beginning on approximately May 27, 2011, including to hire computer forensic firms, to staff call centres, and to provide credit monitoring services for individuals whose personal identifying information was compromised," the plea agreement said.
Rivera surrendered to the FBI in Phoenix on August 28 after being indicted on one count of conspiracy and one count of unauthorized impairment of data, programs, systems and information on a computer system used in interstate and foreign commerce and communication.
Rivera faced a statutory maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, but in exchange for his guilty plea, the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California agreed to drop the second charge and recommend a reduced sentence. Rivera's sentencing hearing is scheduled for March 14, 2013.
One of Rivera's co-conspirators in the Sony Pictures breach, a 23-year-old man from Phoenix named Cody Kretsinger who used the online moniker "Recursion", pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy and one of unauthorised impairment of a protected computer.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, a 28-year-old hacker from New York who acted as the leader of LulzSec under the online alias of Sabu, was secretly arrested by the FBI in June 2011. He subsequently agreed to work as an FBI informant and it's believed that his collaboration with the authorities led to the arrest of other LulzSec members in the US and other countries.