Jury says UK teens were part of the hacking group behind a ‘Grand Theft Auto’ blackmail bid

LONDON (AP) — A British jury ruled Wednesday that two teenagers were part of a hacking and blackmail campaign against technology companies including the maker of the “Grand Theft Auto” game series.

Jurors at Southwark Crown Court in London said 18-year-old Arion Kurtaj committed 12 offenses including computer hacking, blackmail and fraud. A 17-year-old defendant who can’t be identified because of his age was convicted of fraud, blackmail and carrying out an unauthorized act to impair the operation of a computer.

The 2-month trial was unusual: Psychiatrists assessed Kurtaj as unfit to stand trial, so the jury was asked to decide whether he had committed the alleged acts but not to deliver a verdict of guilty or not guilty.

Prosecutors said the two teenagers were key players in a group known as Lapsus$ that in 2021 and 2022 hacked the computer systems of companies including communications provider BT, cellphone company EE, software company Nvidia and games-maker Rockstar Games, then threatened to release sensitive information unless they were paid millions in ransoms.

One of the threats was to “leak the stolen source code for the Grand Theft Auto sequel onto internet forums,” the indictment said.

It’s unclear whether ransoms were paid by any of the hacked firms.

Both defendants will be sentenced later.

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