Incident & Breach Response , Managed Detection & Response (MDR) , Security Operations

British Hacking Suspect Avoids Extradition

Lauri Love Wins Appeal, But Faces Prosecution in England
British Hacking Suspect Avoids Extradition
Lauri Love speaks outside court on Feb. 5. (Photo: Courage Foundation)

A British man accused of 2012 and 2013 hack attacks against U.S. government computers, including systems operated by the Federal Reserve, U.S. Army and NASA, has won his legal bid to quash a U.S. extradition request.

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Lauri Love, 33, faced what his lawyers said would be a maximum prison sentence of 99 years if he was extradited to stand charges in the United States and found guilty of all charges against him.

Last April, Britain's high court ruled that Love could challenge an extradition order signed by U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd. She approved the U.S. extradition request based on charges that the U.K.'s Crown Prosecution Service had itself declined to pursue a case against Love (see 'Real People' Don't Want Crypto, UK Home Secretary Claims).

Love lodged an appeal, and on Monday, the U.K. High Court of Justice issued its findings based on testimony it heard last November, ruling that the extradition request was denied.

The judges wrote in their ruling that Love has Asperger Syndrome and said that his "extradition would be oppressive by reason of his physical and mental condition" and that it was highly likely that he would attempt to commit suicide.

The judges argued that Love should be prosecuted in England and that the Crown Prosecution Service should work with its U.S. counterparts to develop its case given "the gravity of the allegations in this case and the harm done to the victims," the judges wrote in their decision. "If proven, these are serious offenses indeed."

In response, Crown Prosecution Service said in a statement: "We have received the high court's judgment on Lauri Love, which we will now consider before making any further decisions."

The Crown Prosecution Service and U.S. prosecutors have 14 days to request an appeal hearing before the U.K. Supreme Court.

Love Hopes For Precedent

In a statement delivered outside court, Love said he hoped his case set a "precedent so this will not happen to people in the future," the BBC reports.

"I'm hoping that this outcome can contribute to the discussion we are having as a society about how to accommodate people that have neuro-diversity, whose brains are made up in a slightly different way," he added. "There is an ongoing problem with people with autism in the justice system - they have actually been debating it in Westminster Hall. I hope in the future to be able to contribute to a slightly better understanding of the stigma associated with depression."

British charity organization Liberty, which promotes civil and human rights, assisted Love with his appeal.

"We are delighted that the court has today recognized Lauri's vulnerability, close family connections to the U.K. and the potentially catastrophic consequences of extraditing him," says Emma Norton, Liberty's head of legal casework. "This was always a case that could have been prosecuted here, and it's shameful that Lauri and his family have been put through this terrible ordeal."

Parallels With McKinnon Case

Love's case has parallels with that of Gary McKinnon, a Scottish man indicted in the United States in 2002 for alleged computer crimes. U.S. prosecutors accused McKinnon of executing "the biggest military computer hack of all time." A medical review board, however, had warned that the extradition of McKinnon, who has Asperger Syndrome and "suffers from depressive illness," would result in a "high risk" that he would commit suicide. In 2012, Prime Minster Theresa May - then the home secretary - blocked a U.S. request for McKinnon to be extradited.

In response, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that together with the London Metropolitan Police, it was opting to not open a new criminal investigation into McKinnon's activities, based in part on their having agreed that the best venue to prosecute McKinnon was in U.S. court.

"U.S. authorities indicated to us that they would be willing to cooperate with a prosecution in England and Wales if that would serve the interest of justice," the CPS said in a December 2012 statement. "However, they do not consider that making all the U.S. witnesses available for trial in London and transferring all of the U.S. material to this jurisdiction would be in the interests of justice."

About the Author

Mathew J. Schwartz

Mathew J. Schwartz

Executive Editor, DataBreachToday & Europe, ISMG

Schwartz is an award-winning journalist with two decades of experience in magazines, newspapers and electronic media. He has covered the information security and privacy sector throughout his career. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2014, where he now serves as the executive editor, DataBreachToday and for European news coverage, Schwartz was the information security beat reporter for InformationWeek and a frequent contributor to DarkReading, among other publications. He lives in Scotland.

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