NEW YORK – 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 and most-feared computer vandals – turned against his comrades and secretly became an informant for the FBI months ago, authorities said Tuesday.
Five people, including a Chicago man, were charged in court papers unsealed in federal court in New York, and authorities revealed that a sixth person, Hector Xavier Monsegur, a legendary figure known in the hacking underworld as “Sabu,” has pleaded guilty in New York, where he lives.
Authorities said it marked the first significant prosecution of major Internet hackers.
According to court papers, members of the group got their start as part of a large worldwide hacking organization known as Anonymous, which authorities said has been operating at least since 2008.
In chat rooms and on Twitter, Anonymous supporters erupted into a chorus of disappointment, confusion, and anger.
Monsegur was portrayed in court papers as the ringleader of some of the group’s more infamous deeds. Authorities said he formed an elite hacking organization last May – a spinoff of Anonymous – and named it “Lulz Security” or “LulzSec.” “Lulz” is Internet slang that can mean “laughs” or “amusement.”
Despite the organization’s lighthearted name, authorities said Monsegur and his followers embarked on a stream of misdeeds 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 victims being temporarily put out of business.
Authorities said their crimes affected nearly 1 million people.
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.
Monsegur, free on $50,000 bail, was charged with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, among other offenses. Authorities said he pleaded guilty Aug. 15.