Topiary (hacktivist)

For Jake Davis the musician, see Jake Davis.

Topiary,[1] real name Jake Leslie Davis, born October 27, 1992,[2] is a former hacker. He has worked with Anonymous, LulzSec, and similar hacktivist groups.[3] He was an associate of the Internet group Anonymous,[4] which has publicly claimed various online attacks, including hacking HBGary,[5] Westboro Baptist Church, and Gawker.[6] They have also claimed responsibility for the defacing of government websites in countries such as Zimbabwe,[7] Syria,[8] Tunisia,[9] Ireland,[10] and Egypt.[11]

Rise to prominence

On February 24, 2011, Topiary gained attention after he appeared on The David Pakman Show. He informed the host that Anonymous had replaced a Westboro Baptist Church webpage with a message from Anonymous during an on-air confrontation with Shirley Phelps-Roper.[12] A recording of this event was placed on YouTube,[13] where it reached over one million views in five days.

Topiary was a member of LulzSec, and ran their Twitter account.[14][15] The Guardian had reported that Topiary's name was Daniel.[16]

On July 14, 2011, The Guardian published an exclusive interview with Topiary,[17] in which he spoke extensively about his motivations. Describing himself as "an internet denizen with a passion for change" he said he feared being tracked by the authorities: "I can only hope that they haven't pinned any of us, especially my friends from LulzSec." Later, a full transcript of the lengthy interview surfaced on the website of freelance Guardian journalist Ryan Gallagher.[18]


An 18-year-old man suspected of being Topiary was arrested in the Shetland islands of Scotland on July 27, 2011.[19] On July 31, 2011, the man was charged with five offences including unauthorised computer access and conspiracy to carry out a distributed denial of service attack on the Serious Organised Crime Agency's website.[20] Scotland Yard later identified the man arrested as Jake Davis, a resident of the island of Yell.[21] He was charged with unauthorised access of a computer under the Computer Misuse Act 1990, encouraging or assisting criminal activity under the Serious Crime Act 2007, conspiracy to launch a denial-of-service attack against the Serious Organised Crime Unit contrary to the Criminal Law Act 1977, and criminal conspiracy also under the Criminal Law Act 1977.[22]

Police confiscated a Dell laptop and a 100-gigabyte hard drive that had 16 different virtual machines. The hard drive also contained details relating to an attack on Sony and hundreds of thousands of email addresses and passwords.[23] A London court released Davis on bail under the conditions that he live under curfew with his mother and have no access to the Internet. His lawyer Gideon Cammerman stated that, while his client did help publicise LulzSec and Anonymous attacks, he lacked the technical skills to have been anything but a sympathiser.[23]

After his arrest, Anonymous launched a 'Free Topiary' campaign,[24] which included adding a "Free Topiary" banner to their Twitter avatars, similar to the Free Bradley banner.

Guilty plea

Davis pleaded guilty on June 25, 2012 to DDoS attacks on several websites, but pleaded not guilty to two counts of encouraging others to commit computer offenses and fraud. Davis was due to be tried along with Ryan Cleary (Ryan), Ryan Ackroyd (Kayla), Mustafa Al-Bassam (T-Flow), beginning April 8, 2013. The court was informed it would take 3,000 hours to view the material against Ackroyd alone. They were released on bail, except for Cleary.[25][26]

Court appearance

On April 8, 2013, Davis again appeared in court with fellow hackers, Ryan Ackroyd, Ryan Cleary and Mustafa Al-Bassam. All four pleaded guilty to computer crimes and were sentenced on May 14, 2013. Davis faced a maximum of 10 years in prison but got 24 months in a young offenders institute. He served 38 days because he had been electronically tagged for 21 months and this counted against his sentence.[27]


  1. Kinney, Josh (2011-02-26). "Who is Anonymous? A look at the hacktivists aiding revolution in the Middle East". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  3. ATopiary. "Topiary (atopiary) on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  4. Inside Anonymous’ Secret War Room Inside Anonymous' Secret War Room - Gizmodo, 18 Mar 2011
  5. Anderson, Nate (2011-02-09). "How one man tracked down Anonymous—and paid a heavy price". ars technica. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  6. "Gawker hack triggers password resets at major sites". BBC News. 2010-12-15. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  7. "Pro-WikiLeaks hackers deface Zimbabwe government websites". The Hacker News. 2010-01-02. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  8. Shannon, Brad (8 August 2011). "Syrian Ministry Of Defense Website Hacked By 'Anonymous'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  9. Read, Max (2011-01-03). "Anonymous Attacks Tunisian Government over Wikileaks Censorship". Gawker. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  10. "Anonymous Hacks Into Fine Gael Website". infosec island. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  11. Svensson, Peter (2011-02-02). "Anonymous Hacker Group Attacks Egyptian Government Sites". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  12. Goodman, William (2011-02-24). "Video: Anonymous hacks Westboro Baptist Church website during on-air confrontation". CBS News. Retrieved 2011-04-12.
  13. MidweekPolitics (2011-02-24). "Anonymous Hacks Westboro Baptist Church Website During Live Confrontation". YouTube. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
  14. Poeter, Damon (2 July 2011). "Who is LulzSec?: The Frontman". PC Magazine. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2011.
  15. Olson, Parmy (2012). We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency. Little, Brown. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-316-21354-7.
  16. Halliday, Josh (2011-06-24). "Lulzsec - the members and the enemies". Guardian. London.
  17. Gallagher, Ryan (2011-07-14). "Why hacker group LulzSec went on the attack". Guardian. London.
  18. "LulzSec interview: the full transcript". 2011-07-22.
  19. "Man arrested over computer hacking claims". BBC News. 27 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  20. "LulzSec: Man charged over computer hacking claims". BBC News. 31 July 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  21. United States of America v Jake Davis aka Topiary aka Atopiary et al - United States District Court, Southern District of New York. Indictment 6 March 2012
  22. Albanesius, Chloe (31 July 2011). "Report: Scotland Yard Identifies LulzSec Hacker". PC Magazine. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on 31 July 2011. Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  23. 1 2 Prodhan, Georgina (1 August 2011). "UK teen cyber activist bailed without Internet access". Reuters. London. Thomson Reuters. Archived from the original on 1 August 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  24. DJ Pangburn. "Anonymous Launches 'Free Topiary' Campaign". Death and Taxes. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  25. Mills, Elinor. "Two Hackers plead guilty to LulzSec attacks on Web sites". news article. CNET. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  26. "LulzSec's Ryan Cleary admits hacking into CIA and the Pentagon". news article. The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  27. Former Lulzsec hacker Jake Davis on his motivations
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