Ring­leader of hack­ers be­comes an in­for­mant

Turns on com­rades; five in group charged

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY LARRY NEUMEISTER AND

NEW YORK | A group of ex­pert hack­ers who at­tacked gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions around the globe has been busted af­ter its ring­leader — one of the world’s most-wanted com­puter van­dals — turned against his com­rades and se­cretly be­came an in­for­mant for the FBI months ago, au­thor­i­ties said Tues­day.

Five peo­ple, in­clud­ing a Chicago man, were charged in court pa­pers un­sealed in fed­eral court in New York, and au­thor­i­ties re­vealed that a sixth per­son, Hec­tor Xavier Mon­se­gur, a leg­endary fig­ure known in the hack­ing un­der­world as “Sabu,” has pleaded guilty in New York, where he lives.

Au­thor­i­ties said it marked the first sig­nif­i­cant pros­e­cu­tion of ma­jor In­ter­net hack­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to court pa­pers, mem­bers of the group got their start as part of a large world­wide hack­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion known as Anony­mous, which au­thor­i­ties said has been op­er­at­ing at least since 2008. Court pa­pers ac­cused Anony­mous of a “de­lib­er­ate cam­paign of on­line destruc­tion, in­tim­i­da­tion and crim­i­nal­ity.”

In chat rooms and on Twit­ter, Anony­mous sup­port­ers erupted into a cho­rus of dis­ap­point­ment, con­fu­sion, and anger. Some won­dered whether the news was an elab­o­rate fraud. Oth­ers re­vis­ited ear­lier sus­pi­cions that “Sabu” was a gov­ern­ment agent.

As mem­bers of Anony­mous sur­veyed the dam­age Tues­day, one of its most pop­u­lar Twit­ter feeds as­sured its fol­low­ers that it was still OK.

“We’re sail­ing close to the wind,” the feed read. “Our crew is com­plete and do­ing fine.”

Mr. Mon­se­gur was por­trayed in court pa­pers as the ring­leader of some of the group’s more in­fa­mous deeds. Au­thor­i­ties said he formed an elite hack­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion in May — a spinoff of Anony­mous — and named it “Lulz Se­cu­rity” or “Lulzsec.”

Their ex­ploits in­cluded at­tacks on cy­ber­se­cu­rity firms and the post­ing of a fake story that slain rapper Tu­pac Shakur was alive in New Zealand. As their ex­ploits be­came known, some hack­ers as­so­ci­ated with the group boasted about their prow­ess.

Mr. Mon­se­gur, free on $50,000 bail, was charged with con­spir­acy to en­gage in com­puter hack­ing, among other of­fenses. Au­thor­i­ties said he pleaded guilty Aug. 15. Word of his co­op­er­a­tion was con­tained in court records.

Ac­cord­ing to the court pa­pers, he was an in­flu­en­tial mem­ber of three hack­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions — Anony­mous, In­ter­net Feds and Lulz Se­cu­rity. Court pa­pers said he acted as a “rooter,” a hacker who iden­ti­fied vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in com­puter sys­tems.

The court pa­pers said he par­tic­i­pated in at­tacks over the past few years on Visa, Mastercard and Paypal; gov­ern­ment com­put­ers in Tu­nisia, Al­ge­ria, Ye­men and Zim­babwe; Fox Broad­cast­ing Co. and the Tri­bune Co.; PBS; and the U.S. Se­nate.

Also charged in court pa­pers with con­spir­acy to com­mit com­puter hack­ing were Ryan Ack­royd, Jake Davis, Dar­ren Mar­tyn, Don­n­cha O’cear­rb­hail and Jeremy Ham­mond. Three were ar­rested Tues­day; Mr. Davis and Mr. Mar­tyn were pre­vi­ously ar­rested.

Mr. Ham­mond, who is from Chicago, ap­peared be­fore a fed­eral judge there and was or­dered trans­ferred to New York. Mr. Mar­tyn and Mr. O’cear­rb­hail lived in Ire­land, Mr. Ack­royd and Mr. Davis in Bri­tain.

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