Government agencies have arrested several members of hacker group LulzSec, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on Sony Pictures and Fox's "X-Factor" reality series, charging them with crimes allegedly affecting more than 1 million victims.
Five of the arrested individuals are described as "core" members of the hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec, while a sixth individual, who operated under a separate group called Antisec, was also arrested, the U.S. Attorney's office said today in a statement.
The arrests have likely put hackers on alert, even as tensions rise over future attacks. While law enforcement officials, who didn't wish to be named, considered the arrests significant, they stopped short of calling the arrests a major blow to hackers working to illegally obtain data, shut down businesses, and steal money from individuals, companies, and government agencies. Officials, acknowledging current activity among such hackers, issued a warning.
"Hackers should know if they are here or abroad, their anonymity won't last forever," one official said.
Fox News earlier reported that law enforcement officials were able to nab the other members after their former leader, Hector Xavier Monsegur, turned on them.
They caught him, and he was secretly arrested and now works for the FBI," an unidentified source told Fox News.
Law enforcement officials declined to comment on any plea-bargaining deals worked out with Monsegur.
LulzSec came on the hacking scene last year in a big way, targeting Sony, the CIA, the U.S. Senate, and FBI, among many other groups. The group also targeted Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, after they stopped allowing individuals to provide financial support to WikiLeaks. Just as suddenly as it appeared, the group announced in June that it was leaving the hacking world, saying that its time was up.
"It's time to say bon voyage," the group wrote at the time. "Our planned 50-day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance, leaving behind--we hope--inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere. Anywhere."
That was around the same time the FBI launched its investigation, based on a tip, though officials said other investigations in this area had started long before.
Just prior to that announcement, British newspaper The Guardian released Internet chat logs between alleged LulzSec members. Chief among the folks instant-messaging was someone who went by the name "Sabu."
"You realize we smacked the FBI today," Sabu said in the logs. "This means everyone in here must remain extremely secure."
According to Fox News, the FBI discovered that Monsegur was Sabu back in June, and he was quickly (and secretly) arrested. A source told Fox News that the 28-year-old Monsegur, who reportedly lives in New York's Lower East Side and has two children, pleaded guilty to hacking-related charges on August 15. He then agreed to cooperate with the FBI to help catch other alleged members, according to Fox News.
Monsegur's role in the group was to act as a "rooter," or the person who sniffs out the vulnerabilities in a security system. He would then pass on the information to his cohorts, or exploit the vulnerability himself.
The other individuals were Ryan Ackroyd, also known as lolspoon or lol, Jake Davis, or topiary, Darren Martyn, or pwnsauce, and Donncha O'Cearrbhail, or palladium. A sixth hacker, Jeremy Hammond, or Anarchaos, was part of AntiSec. He was arrested yesterday in Chicago, charged with hacking into Strategic Forecasting and pilfering data related to 860,000 individuals.
This is the first major arrest of alleged LulzSec members since September. At that time, an Arizona man was charged with allegedly breaking into Sony Pictures Entertainment's computer systems. It's not clear if "Sabu" played any role in the man's arrest.
Updated at 10 a.m. to include more details.