The news broke today via Fox that the LulzSec/Anonymous figurehead Hector Xavier Monsegur a.k.a. AnonymouSabu was under arrest and being charged with 12 counts of computer hacking conspiracy and other crimes. The case was initially opened last summer and the charges were filed via a criminal information, making it appear likely that Monsegur has since been cooperating with law enforcement in their investigations into other online criminal activities and individuals. In fact Monsegur had already been identified as the real person behind Sabu in other unrelated online investigations, but this was understandably downplayed.
The release from the FBI also details charges against Ryan Ackroyd (a.k.a. kayla), Jake Davis (a.k.a.Topiary), Darren Martyn (a.k.a pwnsauce) and Donncha O’Cearrbhail (a.k.a. palladium) for hacks on Fox, PBS, Fine Gael, HBGary and Sony Entertainment (among others), and Jeremy Hammond (a.k.a anarchaos) for the Stratfor hack. O’Cearrrbhail is also individually cited as the individual responsible for the recording and release of the infamous FBI conference call.
The same FBI release also makes it very clear that these allegations are based in part on information given at Monsegur’s guilty plea.
This news certainly looks like the endgame for the splinter group known as LulzSec and possibly AntiSec too. It should certainly be expected that law enforcement have gathered all evidence they feel is necessary to proceed effectively against those individuals they are currently charging. Sabu was certainly not their only source of intelligence, but undoubtedly their most important.
It’s worth remembering that LulzSec and Anonymous were never one and the same. In several cases, most notably the Stratfor hack, an Anonymous release was posted which passionately denied any involvement in hacking a “media organisation”.
Anonymous is a very different organisation to LulzSec and other more closely linked groups. Anyone can and does act in the name of Anonymous and their activities do not require individual hacker publicity or disclosure of personally identifiable details. The very fact that Sabu became the “celebrity” he was, illustrates the real difference between LulzSec and Anonymous. LulzSec may be finished, but it would be premature to say the same about Anonymous.
Does this undermine “trust” in Anonymous? If anything would make that community laugh, that proposition certainly would! The hackers we really need to worry about are those that trusted no one and sought no glory in the first place and the best place to look to thwart them is in better securing our own networks and assets.
I am reminded of one of my all time favourite films, Angels with Dirty Faces. Maybe if Sabu has been informing on his erstwhile associates that is the most good that can come of this. Just like Rocky Sullivan eventually “turned yeller” much to the disillusionment of the street kids, maybe Sabu’s dramatic fall from hacker glory will also serve as an object lesson.