A French teenager is being held by police in relation to a spate of bomb threats made to schools across Europe, the US, Asia and Australia, according to reports.
The 18-year-old, named Vincent Lauton, is "a sophisticated computer operative" who is "known for previous acts of piracy", but is so respected as a hacker that he is sometimes consulted by detectives for his advice, according to an article in The Daily Mail, which details his apparent connection to the threats.
Now Lauton is being held by French police and questioned over his alleged connection to a dark web operation that takes requests for bomb threats that can be made to schools or businesses, the article says.
In the past few weeks, dozens of schools across Australia have received the same automated phone message warning of an explosive device on school grounds, after which the schools have had to be evacuated.
Schools across Britain, the US, France, Japan, Holland, Norway and Guam have received similar threats.
In each case no device is found.
The Daily Mail claims that its own investigation - which it does not detail - revealed Lauton as the administrator of a dark web domain darkness.su, linked to a group calling itself EvacuationSquad.
The group apparently accepts payments in bitcoin for sending automated bomb threats to schools, businesses, courthouses and sporting events.
Threats against individual schools can be ordered for $US5 worth of bitcoin, according to a message from the group that appears to be from before March 2015.
The group also appears to have solicited requests for threat targets on Twitter, with account @Ev4cuati0nSquad (since suspended) tweeting: "Want to get out of a school for a day? Want to divert the police away from a crime you're going to commit? Email us."
A Paris police source told the British outlet that Lauton was being questioned "at length", and that no other suspects had been located or arrested.
Meanwhile, a man named William, claiming to be Lauton's brother, expressed disbelief over the arrest.
"I can't believe that the police would frame this on him. I think it's disgraceful," he wrote on Facebook.
"All I can do for now is hope that they will release him quickly but apart from the story being covered by all news companies in the country and other charges being brought up and blamed on him, I sincerely doubt that having any hope at all at this stage is pointless."
The teen's father Daniel Lauton, 67, also expressed surprise.
"He's a teenager like any other - a little angry maybe, but not a criminal," he told The Daily Mail.
"When the police arrived they went straight to my son's room, where they said he had been threatening people."