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Alleged LulzSec hacker of Sony Pictures faces trial date in December

23-year-old accused of having posted millions of users' details on group's website after hacking into Sony Pictures Europe systems

The background from LulzSec's Twitter page. Leaked IRC logs show the group's inner workings. Photograph: AP
An alleged member of the clandestine hacking group LulzSec pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of taking part in an extensive computer breach of the Sony Pictures Entertainment film studio's European systems.

Cody Kretsinger, 23, entered not guilty pleas to one count each of conspiracy and unauthorized impairment of a protected computer during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

US Magistrate Judge Victor Kenton set a trial date of 13 December for Kretsinger, who spoke only in response to questions from the judge.

Kenton also ordered that Kretsinger be represented by a court-appointed public defender.

Kretsinger faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison if convicted. He declined to comment to the Reuters after the hearing.

A nine-page federal grand jury indictment unsealed in September charges Kretsinger with obtaining confidential information from Sony Pictures' computer systems using an SQL injection attack against its website, a technique commonly used by hackers to steal information.

The indictment asserts that Kretsinger, who it is claimed went by the online handle "recursion", helped post information he and his co-conspirators stole from Sony on LulzSec's website and announced the intrusion via the hacking group's Twitter account.

LulzSec, an underground group also known as Lulz Security, at the time published the names, birth dates, addresses, e-mails, phone numbers and passwords of thousands of people who had entered contests promoted by Sony.

"From a single injection we accessed EVERYTHING," the hacking group said in a statement at the time. "Why do you put such faith in a company that allows itself to become open to these simple attacks."

A number of Britons have been charged with offences relating to LulzSec's activities; they are not due to come to trial until early in 2012.

The de facto leader of LulzSec, who goes by the handle Sabu, recently responded to a string of questions on the Reddit website and suggested that he was "effectively on the run" - although he is not believed to have moved from his location, believed to be in New York.

Hackers previously had accessed personal information on 77 million Sony PlayStation Network and Qriocity accounts, the vast majority of which were users in North America and Europe, in what was then the biggest such security breach in history. Nobody and no group has ever directly claimed responsibility, and Sony has never released any details about how the attack was carried out. At one point it did suggest that members of the loose hacking collective Anonymous may have been responsible, but that has never been confirmed by either side.

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