A teenager studying at Trinity College Dublin boasted he could electronically track the movements of the head of the Garda cybercrime unit “24/7”.
That is according to the international hacking case prepared by the FBI after information was passed on by a ringleader of the covert online organisation, who is seeking a reduced sentence.
Donncha O’Cearrbhail, aged 19, was arrested yesterday by gardaí pursuing an ongoing investigation. He was questioned in Terenure station. He can be held until later today, before he must be charged or released.
The US warrant said Mr O’Cearrbhail, from Birr, Co Offaly, was involved in the infiltration of Fine Gael’s election website and had already been arrested in relation to this.
However, the charges the FBI has now prepared against him are rooted in his alleged activities after his questioning by gardaí in Sept 2011.
According to the FBI’s complaint to the US courts, Mr O’Cearrbhail, who is a son of independent town councillor John Carroll, admitted taking part in the Fine Gael hacking. He was released while charges were considered.
The student was also suspected of being involved in hacking Fox Broadcasting in America and The Sun’s website in Britain.
However, in January this year, the FBI said Mr O’Cearrbhail was able to gain access to the private Gmail accounts of Garda detectives who were investigating his case.
The Irish officers had been forwarding relevant material from their work emails, which were held on official Garda accounts, to personal Gmail addresses.
These included plans and access codes for a conference call to discuss the case with their counterparts in the FBI.
The FBI said Mr O’Cearrbhail, with assistance from its informant, was able to eavesdrop on the inter-agency conference call and leak the material online.
He used the aliases “palladium”, “polonium” and “anonsacco”, and was in direct contact with the man who has already pleaded guilty to FBI charges and is helping the bureau prepare its case against the suspects in the US, Ireland and Britain.
In one internet chat, intercepted by the FBI, the documents quoted Mr O’Cearrbhail where he claims to have compromised the lead investigator in the case and could monitor his movements.
“I just got into the iCloud for the head of the national police cybercrime unit. I have all his contacts and can track his location 24/7,” he said.
The FBI confirmed the supervisor for the Garda cybercrime unit was among the officers whose email system had been accessed.
Mr O’Cearrbhail faces 10 years in jail if he is found guilty of the charge of computer-hacking conspiracy and could be imprisoned for five years if he is convicted of a second charge of passing on information from the conference call he is accused of tapping into.
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