LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Accused LulzSec hacker Cody Kretsinger pleaded guilty on Thursday in federal court in California to charges of taking part in an extensive computer breach of Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Kretsinger, 24, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer in a deal with prosecutors. LulzSec, an offshoot of the international hacking group Anonymous, has taken credit for hacking attacks on government and private sector websites.
"I joined LulzSec, your honor, at which point we gained access to the Sony Pictures website," Kretsinger, who went by the hacking moniker "Recursion," told the judge after entering his guilty plea.
Kretsinger testified that he gave the information he got from the Sony site to other members of LulzSec, who then posted it onto the group's website and on Twitter.
Kretsinger and other LulzSec hackers, including those known as "Sabu" and "Topiary," stole the personal information of thousands of people after launching an "SQL injection" attack on the website, and ultimately caused Sony Pictures Entertainment over $600,000 in damages, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Vandevelde said in court.
The plea agreement is under seal, although Vandevelde said Kretsinger would likely receive substantially less than the 15-year maximum sentence he faces. His sentencing is scheduled for July 26. Neither Kretsinger nor his lawyer would comment after the proceedings.
Anonymous and its offshoots including LulzSec and AntiSec focused initially on fighting attempts at Internet regulation and the blocking of free illegal downloads, but have since taken on other targets including Scientology and the global banking system.
Anonymous - and LulzSec in particular - became notorious in late 2010 when they launched what they called the "first cyber war" in retaliation for attempts to shut down the Wikileaks website.
They attacked websites including MasterCard.com which had tried to block payments to Wikileaks after apparent pressure from the U.S. government following the release of thousands of diplomatic cables.
Reporting by Mary Slosson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Todd Eastham