|In a Twitter message, Anonymous-affiliated account @YourAnonNews played down the charges [Twitter]|
A leading hacker, whose group claimed responsibility for attacks on the CIA, law enforcement agencies in the UK and Ireland and major corporations, was an FBI informant, according to court documents.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, a leader of the Anonymous-linked LulzSec hacker ring, agreed to work with the FBI after secretly pleading to 12 charges of computer hacking last August, the FBI said, as charges against five other hackers were announced on Tuesday.
Monsegur, known as Sabu online, and the five others were charged in connection with last year’s infamous hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment, as well as attacks on Fox Broadcasting, the security companies HB Gary and Stratfor, and others, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
More recently one of the hackers eavesdropped and recorded a telephone conference between members of the FBI and senior British police officials in an embarrassing episode for law enforcement agencies in the US and UK.
“These cyber criminals affiliated themselves with Anonymous in different ways. They are not anonymous today, they have been identified and charged,” said a law enforcement official, who did not want to be identified as the investigation is continuing.
The FBI was able to gain information about the hackers after identifying Monsegur, an unemployed 28-year-old father of two. Threatened with jail, he agreed last year to become a secret informant and turn in his colleagues so as to stay with his two young children.
In Twitter messages, the Anonymous-affiliated account @YourAnonNews called Monsegur a “traitor” and played down the charges, claiming “We don’t have a leader”.
Monsegur was arrested in June 2011 at a housing complex in Manhattan, just weeks after LulzSec had perpetrated its most damaging campaign, hacking the CIA, Sony, Fox and other institutions and causing billions of dollars in damage around the world, according to some estimates.
An offshoot of the Anonymous hacker group, LulzSec was also behind the December hack on US security company Stratfor, as well as attacks on the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency, the national police of Ireland, and the Mexican government website.
Monsegur was charged with aggravated identity theft, related to the selling of stolen credit card numbers, and pleaded guilty in August, in a secret deal that saw him start working with the government from FBI offices.
He kept up his leadership of the hacking ring, but allowed FBI agents to monitor his online activities, enabling them to alert companies and institutions that were being targeted. He even persuaded his colleagues to call off a successful hack on the CIA’s website. “You’re knocking over a bee’s nest,” he allegedly warned his associates. “Stop.”
Besides the case against Monsegnur, the indictment also detailed charges against Ryan Ackroyd, aka “Kayla,” and Jake Davis, aka “Topiary,” both British; and Darren Martyn, aka “pwnsauce” of Ireland. Each were charged with two counts of computer hacking conspiracy and face 10 years in jail.
Donncha O’Cearrbhail, aka “palladium,” of Ireland, faces the same charge as well as a wire communication offence which carries a maximum five-year term.
Jeremy Hammond, aka “Anarchaos,” of Chicago, faces charges of computer hacking, computer hacking conspiracy and another conspiracy charge, each of which carry a maximum ten-year sentence.