The man, reported to be aged 25 and from the town of Salò on the shore of Lake Garda, claims to belong to the self-proclaimed Master Italian Hackers Team, a collective that has repeatedly targeted the official websites of Italian schools, city councils and regional governments, as well as branches of the police and Italy's state broadcaster Rai.
Google search results show some of the domains hacked by the suspect's collective.
But their most notorious hack to date was a November 2013 attack on sites associated with one of Nasa's research centres, which saw eight official domains rendered temporarily inaccessible.
That stunt attracted the attention of Italy's anti-cybercrime police, who began monitoring the group's online activity. Among other clues their discussions on social networks – where the suspect was prone to bragging about his exploits – led them to the young man, whose name has not been made public. A search of his devices provided evidence of his involvement, which he has since admitted to police, according to Rai.
He has been linked to nearly 70 attacks in total, investigators say.
The hacks were not accompanied by any particular demands; instead the goal appears to have been to cause inconvenience, expose vulnerabilities in the security system and above all, get attention.
The attacks typically consisted of replacing a site's homepage with a message – written in the Italian colours – claiming responsibility and warning: “Security is just an illusion”.
One of the Master Italian Hackers Team's efforts.