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Topiary, also known as “Gardenslayer”, is the online pseudonym of a suspected key member of the hacker group LulzSec. His Twitter account description claims he has worked with other hacker groups as well:
Simple prankster turned swank garden hedge. Worked with Anonymous, LulzSec, and other such paragons of intense cyber victory. You are free.
On June 30th, 2011, PC Mag reported that a hacktivist known as “Topiary” was the co-founder of LulzSec and ran the group’s Twitter account. The Guardian published an interview with Topiary the following month on July 14th. During the interview, Topiary explained why LulzSec became popular in a short amount of time:
“What we did was different from other hacking groups. We had an active Twitter (controlled by me), cute cats in deface messages, and a generally playful, cartoon-like aura to our operations. We knew when to start, we knew when to stop, and most of all we knew how to have fun.”
On July 27th, the British Metropolitan Police arrested a Scottish resident in the Shetland Islands on charges related to cybercrime, hacking and network intrusions. Since the arrest on that morning, Twitter updates on the @LulzSec account came to a halt, and all Topiary’s personal tweets via @Atopiary were removed, with the exception of a quotation by famed civil rights activist Medgar Evers “You cannot arrest an idea” tweeted on July 21st:
You cannot arrest an idea.— Topiary (@atopiary) July 22, 2011
On August 1st, 2011, the arrested individual’s identity was revealed as Jake Davis, an 18-year-old from the Shetland Islands. According to The Next Web, a photo was taken of him outside of his first court apperance wearing a blue shirt and black sunglasses:
The suspected LulzSec member is accused of coordinating Anonymous and LulzSec attacks from his home in Yell, on the Shetland Islands. His laptop was examined and it reportedly showed that he wrote a fake article claiming that Rupert Murdoch was dead, and such an article appeared on the Sun’s website recently when its own website was hacked. The hearing today also revealed that Davis’ computer had 750,000 people’s personal details, including private log-in information.
At the brief photo op outside the Westminster Magistrates in London, Davis was seen wearing sunglasses and holding a copy of “Free Radicals: The Secret Anarchy of Science” by Micheal Brooks.
Davis’ hearing was held in the same court room where Ryan Cleary, another suspected associate of Lulzsec connected to the DDoS attacks against SOCA, had stood his trial just a month earlier. Davis looked straight ahead and remained attentive for the most part of the proceedings, though he was briefly seen suppressing laughter when the prosecutor misnounced “Lulzsec” as “Luke Sec.” According to Forbes, the prosecution team described Cleary as a “co-defendant,” suggesting that there could be a joint trial for the two young men. Furthermore, the prosecution explained that the police seized a Dell laptop computer from Davis’ residence, which contained an external 100GB hard drive running 16 different virtual computers and 40 unspecified applications in the background.
Meanwhile, Davis’ defense attorney Gideon Cammerman argued that despite the gravity of the charges, the 18-year-old from Shetland Islands was not as accountable as other members of the LulzSec group. “The picture that emerges is not of a skilled and persistent hacker, but someone that sympathizes and publicizes and acts as a repository for information hacked by others,” Cammerman said.
On August 1st, 2011, Jake Davis was released on bail by the courts after being charged with five offenses: 1) Unauthorized access to a computer system; 2) Encouraging or assisting offenses; 3) Conspiracy with others to carry out a DDoS attack on the British SOCA (Serious Organized Crime Agency); 4) Conspiracy to committ offenses of Section 3 Computer Misuse Act 1990 and 5) Conspiracy with others to commit offences of Section 3 Computer Misuse Act 1990 contrary to Section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977.
According to The Guardian, his bail conditions are stipulated so that Davis must wear an electronic tag, not access the internet, and not leave his house between 10pm and 7am.
“After a life full of efforts and diligence, courage and patience, incitement and cyber victory, generosity and charity, expatriation and travels, advice and good planning, wisdom and sophistication, the life of the Garden Hedge came to an end during this specific era. His blood, words, attitudes, and his ending are to remain a longcat running within the junctions of Anonymous generation after generation.”
In addition to the criminal charges filed in the United Kingdom, Davis and other members of Lulzsec have been also indicted in the United States, but as of June 2013, no extradition request for any of them has been filed by the American government.
“Free Topiary” Campaign
On August 2nd, 2011, TG Daily reported that Anonymous launched a “Free Topiary” campaign to “fund future operations and help 18-year-old Jake Davis who faces multiple hacking related charges in the UK.” The official communique was posted to Pastebin and praised Topiary’s suspected crimes and referenced the Internet memes I’m Behind 7 Proxies, and It’s Over 9,000!. It also claimed that Topiary was responsible for the Westboro Baptist Church hack:
Jake wrote many lulzy press releases for both Anonymous and Lulz Security. He proved his value as a spokesperson by taking on Shirley Phelps of Westboro Baptist, slaying her hateful religious zeal with over 9,000 sins.
A Facebook page for “Free Topiary” has accumulated 745 likes as of August 3rd, 2011.
Vigilant Doxing on Xbox Forums
Topiary was an avid xbox gamer…Was known in the community talked a lot. One of the forum users doxed [identified] him and kept throwing the info out there enough that someone was smart enough to make the connection."
The Guardian Column
On Spetember 8th, 2012, more than a year after Davis’ release from custody on conditional bail, The Guardian published a column titled “My life after Anonymous: ‘I feel more fulfilled without the internet’” written by the chief Lulzsec suspect himself. In the article, Davis writes about how drastically his life has changed since being banned from Internet access, which he describes as “calmer, slower and at times [I’ll admit] more dull.” However, despite being cut off from everyday shortcuts like looking things up on Google, Davis also revealed a surprisingly optimistic outlook towards his life without the Internet:
It is not so much the sudden simplicity of daily life – as you can imagine, trivial tasks have been made much more difficult – but the feeling of being able to close my eyes without being bombarded with flashing shapes or constant buzzing sounds, which had occurred frequently since my early teens and could only be attributed to perpetual computer marathons. Sleep is now tranquil and uninterrupted and books seem far more interesting. The paranoia has certainly vanished. I can only describe this sensation as the long-awaited renewal of a previously diminished attention span.
Release From Jail
On June 25th, 2013, Jake Davis was released from the Feltham Young Offenders’ Institution in London after serving 37 days in the facility, in addition to 21 months of home detention that he had already completed during the course of his trial. In the days leading up to his release, Davis publicly returned to Twitter under the handle @DoubleJake and revealed that he is required to stay on parole for another year and under strict monitoring for five years.
654 days on curfew and 37 days in Feltham. Up next: another 365 days on license (parole) and 1825 days of intense monitoring. Free though!— Jake Davis (@DoubleJake) June 22, 2013
According to the BBC and other news sources, Davis is once again allowed to use a computer or the Internet, although not without a set of restrictions on his activities, such as corresponding with any of his former LulzSec associates or any other known member of the Anonymous collective, as well as setting up encrypted files and securely wiping his personal data or internet history. In an interview with the BBC, Davis also revealed that he plans to publish a prison diary that he kept while in detention and voiced his support for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
According to Wikipedia, Topiary gained notoriety on February 24th, 2011 when he appeared as an anonymous guest on The David Pakman Show and managed to vandalize a Westboro Baptist Church webpage at the time while arguing with WBC spokesperson during the live appearance. A Pastebin communique issued by an Anonymous affiliate also claimed Topiary as the guest on the talk show. However, the cited source does not verify whether the talk show guest was in fact Topiary or Jake Davis. A recording of Topiary’s alleged media appearance was posted via YouTube, which gained over one million views in five days:
A sentiment analysis using Twitter Sentiment revealed a 67% positive score on August 3rd, 2011.
The blog Anorak reported that Jake Davis is an avid online chess player and lived on Yell Island in the Shetlands prior to his arrest. On the “Free Topiary” Facebook page, a Facebook user named Kelly Smith posted that Jake suffered from agoraphobia after a family member died when he was a young teenager.
Forbes Blog – Alleged LulzSec Frontman ‘Topiary’ Released On Bail