Is Daniel Akerman the LulzSec spokesman Topiary? The video evidence

Filed Under: Denial of Service, Law & order, Vulnerability

VideosIn the last few days, in the light of a teenager being arrested by British police in the Shetland Islands, there has been a lot of speculation as to whether the cops apprehended the wrong man.

Had police really arrested Topiary, the spokesperson for Anonymous and LulzSec, or had they been tricked into collaring a fall guy instead?

Certainly lots of people seem to subscribe to the theory that the police have goofed. A poll Sophos conducted of over 400 people who expressed an opinion, found that 73% believed the police had not arrested the real "Topiary".

Specifically, many internet sites have proposed the theory that Topiary is not an 18-year-old in Shetland, but instead a 23-year-old student from Sweden called Daniel Akerman Sandberg.

Daniel Akerman Sandberg is accused of being Topiary

Sandberg, whose middle name is often spelt 'Ackerman' in reports, also goes by the name "Hombre de Mundo" and makes regular podcasts about the Legend of Zelda video games from Nintendo.

Hang on a minute, we *know* what Topiary sounds like because his voice at least has appeared on a number of TV shows. Just check out the following video:


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And we *know* what Daniel "Hombre de Mundo" Akerman sounds like too because he's made podcasts which are published on the Zelda Universe website. He even appears in some videos like the following one:

Ask yourself this. Do they sound like the same person to you?

Even if the Swedish Daniel Akerman Sandberg is really good at doing a British accent, do you think his manner of talking would really be so different?

I still don't know if the man the police have arrested in Shetland is Topiary for the reasons I explained earlier, but I feel pretty confident that Daniel Akerman Sandberg *isn't* the guy who was interviewed representing Anonymous on those TV shows.

Sure, Sandberg may have some Anonymous connections. For instance, in 2008 he may have appeared in a Swedish TV report of an Anonymous anti-Scientology demonstration. (The speculation is that he's the "Daniel" who appears about 20 seconds into the report).

But protesting about Scientology and being a computer geek doesn't mean that you were Anonymous's main spokesperson in the media and on social networks.

Gawker reporter Adrian Chen appears to share my theory that Daniel Akerman Sandberg is not Topiary, and even went to the effort of having a Skype conversation with the game-loving Swede.

According to Chen, Akerman has contacted Swedish police to tell them what's going on - and they don't seem that interested in asking them to help them with any international cybercrime investigations.

And the latest update from the British police who arrested the teenager in Shetland? They say they have been granted an additional three days to question the suspected hacker, and have confirmed that he is a British national.

Meanwhile, the Twitter accounts of both LulzSec and Topiary remain silent.

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6 Responses to Is Daniel Akerman the LulzSec spokesman Topiary? The video evidence

  1. Dumbo · 1150 days ago

    The twitter accounts would remain silent either way. If it's the wrong guy in custody then the real one will be staying quiet and switching handle. If it's the right guy then he might be singing like a canary but he won't be tweeting for a while.

  2. the "anon rep" from the first video is the former self appointed rep and first class namef*g Barret Brown.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N-n83g7nmw

    match the voice

    • Seriously? If you think that when of us needs to get our ears cleaned out.

      Barrett Brown is American. Topiary doesn't speak with an American accent.

  3. Dana · 1150 days ago

    A 17 year old British boy in a youtube video that was being tweeted by various sources sounded 10 times more like Topiary than this gentleman. I won't say his full name or provide the link because he is underage, but his first name was also Daniel.

  4. danR · 1149 days ago

    We know for certain that the 'Topiary' in the Westboro hack/interview is *the* Anon Topiary because he narrated the hack in real time exactly as it was happening. (Scotland Yard will have that video long-time.) Anyone can go to youTube and see what I mean. One could say in other videos that it was some fake-Topiary, but not that one.

    If he was messing with his voice, that won't escape a skilled forensic voice spectrograph expert. You cannot change your underlying harmonic and formant signatures. (This is why Anon prefers those annoying synthesized voices.) I'm assuming that he is talking to the police, of course.

    So if the cops don't have their man, it would have to be one of the worst cases of bungling.

  5. tseuG · 1148 days ago

    @danR: you are exactly right... Give me a copy of Adobe Audition, and I could, with fair certainty, pair two vocal tracks... The individual(s) which assumed guilt for committing crimes to the press with their vocals unmodified were not very wise... I think I would have patched it through a series of vocoders (something at least..!)...

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About the author

Graham Cluley runs his own award-winning computer security blog, and is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and gives computer security presentations. Send Graham an email, subscribe to his updates on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and App.net, and circle him on Google Plus for regular updates.