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Chopping Off the Head': How LulzSec Ringleader Devastated the Hacktivist Group by Working With the FBI


"He’d do anything for his kids ... That’s how we got him.”

  • The ringleader of the "hacktivist"  group LulzSec was found by the FBI in the summer 2011 and plead guilty to charges Aug. 15
  • Since then, Hector Xavier Monsegur -- or going by his hacking name "Sabu" -- agreed to help the FBI find other computer hackers within the group
  • Five other hackers were identified by Monsegur
  • Monsegur was charged with attacks on Visa, MasterCard, Paypal, the U.S. Senate, PBS, Fox Broadcasting and several other government computer systems

NEW YORK (The Blaze/AP) -- 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 began working as an informant for the FBI months ago, authorities announced Tuesday.

(Related: LulzSec hackers say they're disbanding)

Five people were charged in court papers unsealed in federal court in New York, and authorities revealed that a sixth person, Hector Xavier Monsegur of New York, has pleaded guilty.

These arrests are what Fox News reports one FBI official as saying is "devastating to the organization" and compares it to "chopping off the head" of this hacktivist group.

Monsegur was portrayed in court papers as the ringleader, a legendary figure known in the hacking underworld as "Sabu." Authorities said he formed an elite hacking organization last May and named it "Lulz Security" or "LulzSec." "Lulz" is Internet slang that can be interpreted as "laughs," "humor" or "amusement."

Despite the organization's lighthearted name, authorities said Monsegur and his followers embarked on a dastardly stream of deeds against business and government entities in the U.S. and around the world, resulting in the theft of confidential information, the defacing of websites and attacks that temporarily put victims out of business.

Their exploits included attacks on cyber-security 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.

Monsegur was charged with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, among other offenses. Authorities said he pleaded guilty Aug. 15. Since then, Monsegur who worked as a "rooter", a computer hacker who identified vulnerabilities in computer systems, has been working as an informant for the FBI. Fox News has more on in a separate article about how the authorities located Monsegur after he failed to conceal an IP address when logging into a chat room and what led him to rat out his fellow hacktivists:

The agents worked their prey, using the time-honored good cop/bad cop routine. Bad cop stormed out of Monsegur’s apartment yelling, “That’s it, no deal, it’s over, we’re locking you up.”

The computer genius finally gave in, surrendering to the most clichéd tool in the law enforcement arsenal. But the agents had more than just skills – they had leverage.

“It was because of his kids,” one of the two agents recalled. “He’d do anything for his kids. He didn’t want to go away to prison and leave them. That’s how we got him.”

According to the court papers, he was an "influential member of three hacking organizations -- Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulz Security -- that were responsible for multiple cyberattacks on the computer systems of various businesses and governments in the United States and throughout the world." Here's what Anonymous has said on Twitter in response to this news:

The court papers said Monsegur participated in attacks over the past few years on Visa, MasterCard and PayPal; government computers in Tunisia, Algeria, Yemeni and Zimbabwe; Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Tribune Co.; PBS; and the U.S. Senate.

As an FBI informant, Monsegur may have been a bit mistaken as to his actual role with the FBI. Gawker (via Buzzfeed) reports that in February, Monsegur tried to tell a New York police officer that he was an FBI agent:

On the evening of Feb. 3, an NYPD officer encountered 28-year-old Monsegur at a Lower East Side apartment in New York City. When the cop asked Monsegur for identification, the criminal complaint alleges, he replied, "My name is Boo. They call me Boo. Relax. I am a federal agent. I am an agent of the federal government."


But Monsegur couldn't produce an official ID, and when the officer followed up with the FBI they told him Monsegur wasn't actually an agent. Monsegur was charged with one count of second degree criminal impersonation, a misdemeanor.

Irish police said Tuesday that one of the five suspects had been arrested and was being held at a Dublin police station. They refused to release his name, in keeping with police force policy.

LulzSec is a spinoff of the loosely organized hacking collective Anonymous. Its members attained notoriety last May by attacking the PBS website and posting the false story about Shakur.

According to court papers unsealed Tuesday, Monsegur and others planted the fake story in retaliation for what they perceived to be unfavorable news coverage of Wikileaks on the PBS news program "Frontline."

Some alleged associates of the group are already facing charges elsewhere. An English teenager, Ryan Cleary, was arrested by the British in June. In July, a reputed LulzSec spokesman, Jake Davis, was arrested in Scotland.

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