Arrests Sow Mistrust Inside a Clan of Hackers

March 7, 2012 12:00 am

Share with others:

For months, The Real Sabu, as he called himself on Twitter, boasted, cursed and egged on his followers to take part in computer attacks against private companies and government agencies worldwide.

"Don't give in to these people," he wrote on Monday, ridiculing "cowards" in the federal government. "Fight back. Stay strong."

It turns out that Sabu had become an informant for federal law enforcement authorities. On Tuesday, in what could be one of the biggest breakthroughs in the government crackdown on a loose, large confederation of politically inspired "hacktivists," he was unmasked and revealed to have helped the authorities catch several fellow hackers in Europe and the United States.

Four men in Britain and Ireland were charged Tuesday with computer crimes; a fifth man was arrested Monday in Chicago.

Court papers identified Sabu as Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, of New York. He pleaded guilty last August to a dozen counts of conspiracy to attack computers. He had operated since then as usual -- as The Real Sabu, instigating attacks and quoting revolutionaries online.

The prosecutions are part of a wave of coordinated efforts to rein in a leaderless, multinational movement called Anonymous, which has drawn attention for its protests against the Church of Scientology and in support of the whistle-blower site WikiLeaks. It has spawned spinoffs with different names and insignias, among them LulzSec, which claimed to attack computer security companies for laughs, or lulz, and of which Sabu was a prominent, outspoken member.

Just last week, Interpol announced the arrests of 25 people suspected of being Anonymous members in Europe. Sabu reacted to that news on Twitter by urging others to attack Interpol's Web site.

Mr. Monsegur's base of operations seems to have been his late grandmother's sixth-floor apartment in a public-housing project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. He was apparently self-trained, and he appears to have been equally skilled at hacking and deceiving his fellow hackers. His downfall, if nothing else, will sow even more distrust and dissension in the ranks of Anonymous.


First Published 2012-03-06 23:00:47

Join the conversation:

Commenting policy | How to report abuse
Commenting policy | How to report abuse
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to socialmedia@post-gazette.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner. Thank you.
PG Products