A court has heard that four UK-based hackers involved with the Lulzsec group thought of themselves as being "modern-day pirates".

Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Mustafa al-Bassam and Ryan Cleary have all pleaded guilty to hacking offences.

Cleary has also pleaded guilty to possession of images showing child abuse, which were found by police on his hard drive.

The men will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court later this week.

Lulzsec carried out a series of attacks in 2011. Targets included Sony Pictures, video games maker EA, the News International media group and Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

Ackroyd, 26, from Mexborough, South Yorkshire, has admitted stealing data from Sony. The former soldier was also responsible for redirecting visitors trying to visit the Sun newspaper's site to a fake story about News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch committing suicide.

He has pleaded guilty to carrying out an unauthorised act to impair the operation of a computer.

Bassam, 18, from south London, Davis, 20, from Lerwick, Shetland, and Cleary, 21, from Wickford, Essex, all pleaded guilty to two charges - hacking and launching cyber-attacks against organisations including the CIA and Soca.

In addition, Cleary pleaded guilty to a further four charges, including hacking into the US Air Force's computers and possession of indecent images of babies and children.

Prosecutor Sandip Patel said that unlike the others, Cleary was not a core member of Lulzsec although he had wanted to be.

"It's clear from the evidence that they intended to achieve extensive national and international notoriety and publicity," he said.

"This is not about young immature men messing about. They are at the cutting edge of a contemporary and emerging species of criminal offender known as a cybercriminal."

BBC News