* Authorities target "Anonymous" and other hacking groups
* Investigation shows more than 1 mln victims of hacking
* Hacker identified as "Sabu" pleaded guilty last August
* "Sabu" cooperated with FBI, leading to 5 others charged
By Basil Katz and Grant McCool
NEW YORK, March 6 One of the world's
most-wanted cyber hackers secretly became an FBI informant last
year and helped bring in five other suspected leaders of the
loose-knit international Anonymous group who were charged with
computer crimes on Tuesday.
In a major blow to Anonymous, which has hacked the websites
of government agencies and companies around the world, U.S.
authorities said the hacker, Hector Xavier Monsegur, was
arrested at his small apartment in a Manhattan housing complex
Monsegur, 28, who used the alias "Sabu," pleaded guilty to
each of the 12 crimes with which he was charged at a secret
court hearing on Aug. 15, and agreed to cooperate with the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a transcript made
public on Tuesday.
U.S. prosecutors and the FBI announced charges against five
other men, including two in Britain and two in Ireland. The
fifth was Jeremy Hammond, also known as "Anarchaos," who was
arrested in Chicago on Monday on charges of hacking in to
Strategic Forecasting Inc, or "Stratfor," a global intelligence
and research firm, in December 2011.
"These cyber criminals affiliated themselves with Anonymous
in different ways. They are not anonymous today, they have been
identified and charged," a law enforcement official said. The
official asked not to be identified because the investigation is
Cyber security experts said the charges were a major setback
for Anonymous, which had assaulted the websites of credit card
companies that had refused to process donations to WikiLeaks,
the group that leaked confidential diplomatic cables in 2010.
"Sabu was seen as a leader ... Now that Anonymous realizes
he was a snitch and was working on his own for the Fed, they
must be thinking: 'If we can't trust Sabu, who can we trust?'"
said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish computer
security company F-Secure.
"It's probably not going to be the end of Anonymous, but
it's going to take a while for them to recover, especially from
the paranoia," Hypponen said.
In twitter messages earlier on Tuesday, the
Anonymous-affiliated account @YourAnonNews called Monsegur a
"traitor" and played down the charges, claiming "we don't have a
1 MILLION VICTIMS
U.S. authorities said the cyber attacks had affected more
than 1 million people and the computer systems of foreign
governments, such as Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe. Authorities
said Monsegur and three of the charged men raided personal
information about 70,000 potential contestants on Fox Television
Monsegur also took responsibility for attacks on the
websites of eBay's PayPal, MasterCard Inc and
Visa Inc between December 2010 and June 2011, according to
federal prosecutors and the FBI. He is free on a $50,000 bond.
The charges carry a possible maximum prison term of 30 years.
Representatives of the companies declined to comment.
Monsegur has also identified himself as a member of hacking
groups called "Internet Feds" and "LulzSec," while Hammond
identified himself as a member of "AntiSec," officials said.
LulzSec and AntiSec are both affiliated with Anonymous.
An indictment quotes one of Hammond's postings as saying,
"We call upon all allied battleships, all armies from darkness,
to use and abuse these password lists and credit card
information to wreak unholy havoc upons systems and personal
email accounts of these rich and powerful oppressors."
A lawyer for Monsegur, Peggy Cross, did not immediately
return a call seeking comment on the charges. Hammond's lawyer
could not immediately be identified.
About 860,000 clients and subscribers of "Stratfor" had
confidential information stolen, officials said.
In another example of the hacking, officials said defendants
and others hacked into computer servers of HBGary company in
California and Colorado, including about 60,000 emails and
posted them on www.thepiratebay.org, a file-sharing website.
"I personally participated in cyber attacks on the systems
of HBGary and Fox, resulting in a loss of more than $5,000, and
I knew my conduct was illegal," Monsegur confessed in August at
his plea proceeding.
According to a posting on an online chat room in September
that appears to include "Sabu," he was asked what advice he
would give new hackers.
"Stick to yourselves," replied "Sabu." "If you are in a crew
- keep your opsec up 24/7. Friends will try to take you down if
they have to."
LulzSec and Anonymous have taken credit for carrying out
attacks against the CIA, Britain's Serious Organized Crime
Agency, Japan's Sony Corp, Mexican government websites
and the national police in Ireland. Other victims included Fox
Broadcasting, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Public
Broadcasting Service, the Atlanta, Georgia, chapter of Infragard
Members Alliance that is in partnership with the FBI, and
Bethesda Softworks videogame company in Bethesda, Maryland.
Representatives of the companies declined comment.
In the May 2011 hack on Sony Pictures, some of the
defendants stole confidential information of about 100,000 users
of the Sony Pictures website, including passwords, email
addresses, home addresses and dates of birth.
Last summer, as part of a coordinated law enforcement raid
on the group, British police arrested Jake Davis, another
suspected member of LulzSec who went by the nickname "Topiary."
One of the charges announced on Tuesday was against Davis, a
teenager accused of computer attacks on Sony, UK crime and
health authorities, and Rupert Murdoch's UK newspaper arm News
International, a unit of News Corp.
Davis is believed to have controlled the main Twitter
account of Lulz Security, which the group used to publish data
obtained by hacking into corporate and government networks.
LulzSec and Anonymous, loose online collectives of
activists, have attracted widespread global media coverage for
their stunts. LulzSec has more than 350,000 followers on
Last month, Anonymous published a recording of a
confidential call on Jan. 17 between FBI agents and London
detectives in which the law-enforcement agents discuss action
they are taking against hacking. Authorities said they had
arrested and charged Donncha O'Cearrbhail, 19, of Birr, Ireland
of computer hacking conspiracy.
The news of Monsegur's cooperation with the FBI was first
reported by Fox News.