FBI arrests LulzSec leader Sabu along with other top hackers

The FBI on Tuesday arrested a number of top LulzSec hackers after LulzSec leader 'Sabu' becomes an informant

Described by the FBI as being "brilliant but lazy," the de facto leader of LulzSec Hector Xavier Monsegur had long exerted control over a loosely assembled group of hackers who achieved notoriety by carrying out notable hacks against the CIA, PBS, Britain's Serious Organized Crime Agency and a slew of other entities.

But on June 7, 2011, Monsegur, who was known in the LulzSec community as Sabu, was apprehended by the FBI in a housing complex on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. Following his arrest, Sabu became an informant and ultimately gave the FBI information which enabled them to arrest a number of top LulzSec members across the country on Tuesday.

The nondescript public housing unit seemed an unlikely nerve center for one of the world’s most wanted criminal masterminds, but the 28-year-old Monsegur himself is a study in such contradictions. An unemployed computer programmer, welfare recipient and legal guardian of two young children, Monsegur did not go to college and is a self-taught hacker. Although his skills and intellect could command a lucrative salary in the private sector, those who know him say he is lazy, an underachiever complacent with his lifestyle.

All told, the FBI arrested five computer hackers, including Ryan Ackroyd, aka Kayla, Jake David, aka atopiary, Darren Martyin, aka pwnsauceraepsauce, and networkkittenDonncha O'Cearbhal aka palladium, and Jeremy Hammond, aka Anarchaos.

All are being charged in Manhattan Federal Court with computer hacking conspiracy among other charges. As for Monsegur, this past June he was charged on 12 counts centering on various hacking related activities. He pled guilty in August of 2011 and subsequently began working for the FBI, often times out of an FBI office where he helped supply information that led to the arrest of other higher-ups within the LulzSec organization.

While LulzSec, which is an offshoot of Anonymous, is likely a foreign entity to most people, their hacking exploits frequently put them at the center of the tech news cycle. Other exploits of theirs include wiretapping CIA agents, running botnets and performing a wide array of hacktivist operations against organizations they believed represented the worst of corporate greed. In the most recent example, the aforementioned LulzSec hacker Jeremy Hammond - who was arrested in Chicago on Tuesday - was involved in the hack carried out against the global intelligence entity Strategic Forecasting.

Monsegur's arrest and subsequent turn as an FBI informant is undoubtedly shocking, and the FBI was reportedly able to flip him rather quickly given his concern for his children. Monsegur, who previously worked at Limewire - the now defunct peer-to-peer file sharing website - didn't want his kids to grow up while he rotted away in prison.

The incident which led to Monsegur's arrest is in and of itself interesting, and as mentioned above, Monsegur's laziness, or perhaps complacency, is what led to his capture.

Sabu had always been cautious, hiding his Internet protocol address through proxy servers. But then just once he slipped. He logged into an Internet relay chatroom from his own IP address without masking it. All it took was once. The feds had a fix on him.

For weeks they waited, watching him, monitoring the online activity of the man they believed was the leader of LulzSec.

But then, late in the evening of June 7, they received word that Sabu had been "doxed" -- meaning that for a very brief moment, someone had posted Sabu’s real name and address online. Law enforcement feared Sabu would see he’d been outed and begin destroying evidence of his hacking career—and all traces of those he’d worked and communicated with online. They had to move.

Agents had already subpoenaed Sabu’s Facebook account, finding stolen credit card numbers he was selling to other hackers. They had enough to charge him with aggravated identity theft, which carries a two-year minimum sentence. But as the brains behind LulzSec, the man staring across the doorway at them on that summer night last year was much more valuable as a cooperating witness.

But despite his immense technical acumen, Monsegur was living off of public assistance, all the while fighting the "good fight" against corporations and various government entities.

All in all, the FBI scored a huge coup with the initial arrest of Monsegur and this deals quite a blow to LulzSec and Anonymous.

Responding to what they obviously view as the ultimate betrayal, Anonymous released a series of tweets today dismissing the impact of the aforementioned arrests.

Still, one has to imagine the the psychological blow is immense.

via Fox News

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in