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HACKERS BUSTED AFTER ONE BECOMES FBI INFORMANT
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NEW YORK — An Internet outlaw's decision to go to work for the FBI poured light on a secretive world where young computer experts caused havoc and where authorities say a Chicago man and others celebrated their successes as they stole hundreds of thousands of dollars with stolen credit card numbers.
Court documents unsealed Tuesday revealed charges against six individuals in Europe and the United States and showed the clash between law enforcement and Internet hackers, a group of worldwide computer enthusiasts already threatening to retaliate.
Law enforcement officials said it marked the first time core members of the loosely organized worldwide hacking group Anonymous have been identified and charged in the U.S.
Some Anonymous members put on a brave face.
"Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back," read one defiant message posted to Twitter.
At the center was the legendary hacker known as "Sabu," who when he was arrested last June was identified as Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, a self-taught, unemployed computer programmer with no college education. Authorities said his cooperation has helped to prevent more than 300 Internet attacks.
Authorities said he was living on welfare in public housing in New York as he carried out crimes that made him a hero to some in cyberspace until he made a rookie mistake — he posted something online without cloaking his IP address, or computer identity — and someone tipped off the FBI.
Court records show he agreed to cooperate during an August plea proceeding and testify against others.
Among those charged Tuesday was 27-year-old Jeremy Hammond of Chicago. Investigators said Hammond boasted that he'd snared the personal data of a former U.S. vice president and one-time CIA director as part of an attack in December of Strategic Forecasting Inc. or Stratfor, a global intelligence firm in Austin, Texas, that affected up to 860,000 victims.
The government said Hammond conspired to hack into computer systems used by Stratfor, which describes itself as a subscription-based provider of geopolitical analysis.
It said he and co-conspirators stole credit card information for approximately 60,000 credit card users and used some of the stolen data to make more than $700,000 in unauthorized charges.
Court papers said a January email titled "Official Emergency Communique Straight from the Anonymous Hacker Underground" was sent to the company's customers whose accounts had been compromised. The papers said it claimed: "The sheer amount of destruction we wreaked on Stratfor's servers is the digital equivalent of a nuclear bomb: leveling their systems in such a way that they will never be able to recover."
Investigators said Monsegur and the other defendants were associated with Anonymous, and some were also part of the elite spinoff organization that Monsegur formed last May, Lulz Security or LulzSec. "Lulz" is Internet slang for "laughs" or "amusement" - 7 March 2012.
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