The hacker group known as LulzSec appears to be close to collapse as the FBI revealed today that it had been working with former LulzSec leader—known until recently largely by his online handle “Sabu”—to apprehend other leaders of the group and “cut off the head” of LulzSec.
Sabu, also known as The Real Sabu, was identified as Hector Xavier Monsegur, a 28-year old resident of New York City. According to court documents filed today and picked up by press, FBI agents captured Monsegur in a sting operation on June 7, 2011.
“Sabu”, who was unemployed and in public housing during the time of his arrest, lived on welfare and was the legal guardian of two young girls. He pleaded guilty in August 2011 and started assisting the FBI with its investigations into the hacker group, and it is believed this was in exchange for a lightening of his sentences and to keep guardianship of his children.
As of last week, Interpol announced the arrest of 25 people in relationship to the Anonymous and LulzSec hacking. As of this morning, the FBI had named a total of six people in the United States and Ireland who had communicated with Sabu and cooperated in hacking servers and websites around the world.
Billions of Dollars in Damages
Even as LulzSec collapsed, it had already caused an estimated billions of dollar in revenue losses by bringing down critical government and industry websites. The latest target was analysis company Stratfor, which had its website hacked and customers’ credit card data stolen. The FBI said that one of the men arrested this week, Jeremy Hammond from Chicago, had been one of the key figures behind the Stratfor hack.
One of the other named LulzSec member, known online as Palladium, was revealed to be a 19-year-old man in Ireland.
Since the time of his arrest, Sabu had been cooperating with FBI officials, reports contend, even as his hacking comrades had kept in touch with him, asking for his advice and bragging about their online exploits. And while LulzSec and Anonymous hackers kept their communication going with Sabu, the FBI was finding ways to trace the communications back to the hackers and build up enough evidence to file charges against them. All along, Sabu was playing along with his fellow LulzSec hackers, goading them into hacking feats against government and industry websites—sometimes through public posts on Twitter—even as he was working closely with FBI agents who were monitoring his every move carefully.
Monsegur, who did not go to college, was a self-taught hacker and who once worked for Limewire, the company that produced its namesake file-sharing software. Limewire was shuttered after the RIAA brought a lawsuit against it, and Monsegur is reported to have been unemployed since then.