The U.S. charged six alleged members of Anonymous, LulzSec and other hacking groups with trying to break into computers used by News Corp.’s Fox (NWSA) Broadcasting, security firm HBGary Inc. and foreign governments including Yemen.
Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn and Donncha O’Cearrbhail were charged in an indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court, the Office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. Jeremy Hammond was arrested in Chicago and accused of crimes related to the hack of Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, an “influential member” of Anonymous, Internet Feds and LulzSec, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, prosecutors said. Monsegur, known as “Sabu,” was accused of attacking the websites of the governments of Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe. He also helped try to hack Tribune Co. and Fox, prosecutors said.
The hackers arrested are among the de facto leadership of Anonymous, the self-professed hacker-activist group, and LulzSec, or Lulz Security, an affiliated group, according to Barrett Brown, an informal Anonymous spokesman, whose apartment in Dallas was raided this morning. Monsegur continued to work with Anonymous until last week, Brown said. Monsegur’s plea was only made public today.
LulzSec took responsibility for compromising user accounts from Sony Pictures in 2011 and for taking the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency website offline, as well as hacking the website of the Atlanta branch of InfraGard, an FBI affiliate.
O’Cearrbhail, 19, of Birr, Ireland, is charged with the illegal hacking of a Jan. 17 conference call between federal agents in the U.S. and agents with the National Police Service of Ireland. U.S. authorities said that the intrusion was essentially the equivalent of an illegal wiretap by a computer hacker.
Monsegur agreed to cooperate with the U.S. investigation, according to a transcript of his August plea hearing. U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska told Monsegur that he could face a sentence of 122 1/2 years in prison, according to the transcript.
“If that’s true, he’s an absolute traitor,” said Brown. “God knows what’s compromised.”
Brown said Monsegur had access to confidential dealings among the top leadership of both LulzSec and Anonymous. He said it’s unclear to members of the group what information Monsegur may have passed to the FBI as he continued to work on operations, including the hack of Stratfor.
“They managed to get people who are very important, the de facto leadership,” Brown said. “That’s something they haven’t been able to do up to now.”
FBI agents raided Brown’s Dallas apartment at 6:30 a.m. and later showed up at his mother’s house in Dallas, where he had been staying. He said some agents remained outside.
Brown said there had been rumors over the past several weeks that Monsegur was working with authorities.
“I wrote it off as mistakes or a false-flag operation by the FBI,” he said.
Hammond, who identified himself as a member of AntiSec, was charged with the December 2011 hack of Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor, which the U.S. says might have affected 860,000 victims. Hammond appeared today in federal court in Chicago and agreed to be transferred in custody to New York to face the charges against him, Randall Samborn, a spokesman for Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, said in an e-mail.
Brown said Monsegur was responsible for the release of personal information of law enforcement and military personnel obtained following the Stratfor hack, which he described as controversial within Anonymous.
“The release of the credit cards on the Stratfor hack, that was Sabu,” Brown said. “In terms of incriminating other people, who knows what he may have done?”
Monsegur was allowed to remain free on $50,000 bond and remains under the supervision of the FBI “with respect to travel and reporting,” court records show.
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