FBI and Anonymous – Details, harm done from FBI offices?

Editor’s Note – A deeper look into how ‘Anonymous’ was wrapped up by the FBI. But what about these tactics? Was harm inflicted upon eventual victims while the FBI was condoning attacks to pile up the evidence?

How Anonymous Picks Targets, Launches Attacks, and Takes Powerful Organizations Down

By Quinn Norton – Wired Danger Room

No one but Hector Xavier Monsegur can know why or when he became Sabu, joining the strange and chaotic Internet collective known as Anonymous. But we know the moment he gave Sabu up. On June 7, 2011, federal agents came to his apartment on New York’s Lower East Side and threatened the 28-year-old with an array of charges that could add up to 124 years in prison. So Hector Monsegur, who as Sabu had become a mentor and icon to fellow members of Anonymous, surrendered his online identity to a new, equally faceless and secretive master: the FBI.

For the next eight months, Sabu continued to rage across the Internet as a core member of AntiSec, a blackhat hacking group within Anonymous. He helped to deface government and corporate websites and even helped bring down the private intelligence firm Stratfor—all, apparently, with the FBI’s blessing as it quietly gathered logs on Monsegur’s fellow “anons.”

Law enforcement officials later told Fox News that Monsegur was working out of the FBI offices “almost daily” in the weeks after he pleaded guilty in August and then from his own home thereafter, with an agent watching his activity 24 hours a day. Sometimes agents were even posing as Sabu directly.

On Christmas, just after the Stratfor hack, Sabu and I happened to be logged into the same channel on IRC, the chatting protocol that serves as the medium through which most Anonymous members planned large-scale operations. I asked the AntiSec members if they were worried about a law enforcement response to Stratfor. Sabu shot back:

we’re used to that heat

we survived the first rounds of the raids

He was referring to a series of arrests that past summer that had scooped up, worldwide, at least 80 alleged participants in the group. At the time, it was hard to fault his reasoning, since those arrests seemed to have done nothing to slow the group’s terrifying onslaught in 2011.

It was a year in which Anonymous burst into the geopolitical consciousness of the world, assisting Arab Spring activists and attacking the security industry, bedeviling law enforcement and intelligence agencies, carrying out countless hacks against Sony and other large corporations. As protest movements spread to the West, Anonymous provided them with crucial logistics (not to mention a great deal of media attention), from the BART protests in San Francisco to the Occupy actions across the US and overseas. Anonymous had figured out how to infiltrate anything, how to mobilize not just machines but physical bodies, all around the globe.

But Sabu hadn’t survived the first rounds of the raids, and thanks to the evidence he helped the Feds gather, more anons wouldn’t survive the next round. In February, Interpol rounded up 25 more alleged participants worldwide, and a few days later the FBI revealed Monsegur’s cooperation to the news media. Soon five more arrests were made, one from AntiSec and four from LulzSec, another hacker arm of the collective.

The mood on the IRC channels, which at Christmas had been cocky and defiant, modulated to a genuine sadness. One anon wrote plaintively about getting programming advice from Sabu. Another summed up the general feeling among the anons about Sabu’s cooperation with the FBI:

In 2011, Anonymous figured out how to infiltrate anything, to mobilize not just machines but bodies. It was merely a speed bump for the collective but a massive emotional bitchslap for individuals

Was it really just a speed bump? It was impossible to say for sure, because Sabu’s arrest cut to the heart of what Anonymous claimed to be, of how it claimed to organize itself. Or, more accurately: its claim that it did notorganize itself, that it had no leaders and yet boasted participants so innumerable (“We are Legion,” as one of its popular slogans blares) that no ten or hundred or thousand arrests could ever stop it. But in Sabu the FBI had nabbed an anon who was not easy to replace. No one could deny he had served as a crucial force in many of 2011′s most spectacular hacking campaigns.

Presumably the anons arrested on the evidence he helped gather were talented hackers, too. For years, when anyone tried to claim they had uncovered the leader, or leaders, of Anonymous, the group’s members would belittle them online and then sometimes hack them for good measure. Now, with these arrests, Anonymous’ whole self-conception was being put to the test.

The possibility that Anonymous might be telling the truth—that it couldn’t be shut down by jailing or flipping or bribing key participants—was why it became such a terrifying force to powerful institutions worldwide, from governments to corporations to nonprofits. Its wild string of brilliant hacks and protests seemed impossible in the absence of some kind of defined organization. To hear the group and its defenders talk, the leaderless nature of Anonymous makes it a mystical, almost supernatural force, impossible not just to stop but to even comprehend. Anons were, they liked to claim, united as one and divided by zero—undefined and indefinable.

In fact, the success of Anonymous without leaders is pretty easy to understand—if you forget everything you think you know about how organizations work. Anonymous is a classic “do-ocracy,” to use a phrase that’s popular in the open source movement. As the term implies, that means rule by sheer doing: Individuals propose actions, others join in (or not), and then the Anonymous flag is flown over the result. There’s no one to grant permission, no promise of praise or credit, so every action must be its own reward.

What’s harder to comprehend—but just as important, if you want to grasp the future of Anonymous after the arrests—is the radical political consciousness that seized this innumerable throng of Internet misfits. Anonymous became dangerous to governments and corporations not just because of its skills (lots of hackers have those) or its scale but because of the fury of its convictions.

In the beginning, Anonymous was just about self-amusement, the “lulz,” but somehow, over the course of the past few years, it grew up to become a sort of self-appointed immune system for the Internet, striking back at anyone the hive mind perceived as an enemy of freedom, online or offline. It started as a gang of nihilists but somehow evolved into a fervent group of believers. To understand that unlikely transformation, and Anonymous’ peculiar method of (non)organization, it is necessary to start at the very beginning.

Read the rest here.

FBI Arrests LulzSec – Hackers of StratFor, others

Editor’s Note – The FBI was successful in arresting a handful of hackers known to be part of the group called LulzSec which is still an operating subsidiary of the more robust hacking organization known as Anonymous.

Some time ago, the FBI arrested a key leader of LuluSec and then hired him to work as a squealing operative.

Both of these groups have caused tremendous losses and funds to be spent not only in computer systems protection upgrades, but also in recovery costs, lost jobs, military and political secrets being revealed, as well as the cost of the chase and investigation. Still, there is no relief on the horizon as countless hackers within many associated networks remain at large.

Six Hackers in the United States and Abroad Charged for Crimes Affecting Over One Million Victims

Four Principal Members of “Anonymous” and “LulzSec” Charged with Computer Hacking and Fifth Member Pleads Guilty; “AntiSec” Member also Charged with Stealing Confidential Information from Approximately 860,000 Clients and Subscribers of Stratfor.

U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York

LulzSec leader Sabu turns FBI snitch, reportedly gives up five top hackers

FBI.com

Five computer hackers in the United States and abroad were charged today, and a sixth pled guilty, for computer hacking and other crimes. The six hackers identified themselves as aligned with the group Anonymous, which is a loose confederation of computer hackers and others, and/or offshoot groups related to Anonymous, including “Internet Feds,” “LulzSec,” and “AntiSec.”

RYAN ACKROYD, a/k/a “kayla,” a/k/a “lol,” a/k/a “lolspoon”; JAKE DAVIS, a/k/a “topiary,” a/k/a “atopiary”; DARREN MARTYN, a/k/a “pwnsauce,” a/k/a “raepsauce,” a/k/a “networkkitten”; and DONNCHA O’CEARRBHAIL, a/k/a “palladium,” who identified themselves as members of Anonymous, Internet Feds, and/or LulzSec, were charged in an indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court with computer hacking conspiracy involving the hacks of Fox Broadcasting Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”). O’CEARRBHAIL is also charged in a separate criminal complaint with intentionally disclosing an unlawfully intercepted wire communication.

HECTOR XAVIER MONSEGUR, a/k/a “Sabu,” a/k/a “Xavier DeLeon,” a/k/a “Leon,” who also identified himself as a member of Anonymous, Internet Feds, and LulzSec, pled guilty on August 15, 2011 in U.S. District Court to a 12-count information charging him with computer hacking conspiracies and other crimes. MONSEGUR’S information and guilty plea were unsealed today. The crimes to which MONSEGUR pled guilty include computer hacking conspiracy charges initially filed in the Southern District of New York. He also pled guilty to the following charges: a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of California related to the hacks of HBGary, Inc. and HBGary Federal LLC; a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California related to the hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Fox Broadcasting Company; a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia related to the hack of Infragard Members Alliance; and a substantive hacking charge initially filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia related to the hack of PBS, all of which were transferred to the Southern District of New York, pursuant to Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, in coordination with the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (“CCIPS”) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Late yesterday, JEREMY HAMMOND, a/k/a “Anarchaos,” a/k/a “sup_g,” a/k/a “burn,” a/k/a “yohoho,” a/k/a “POW,” a/k/a “tylerknowsthis,” a/k/a “crediblethreat,” who identified himself as a member of AntiSec, was arrested in Chicago, Illinois and charged in a criminal complaint with crimes relating to the December 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, Inc. (“Stratfor”), a global intelligence firm in Austin, Texas, which may have affected approximately 860,000 victims. In publicizing the Stratfor hack, members of AntiSec reaffirmed their connection to Anonymous and other related groups, including LulzSec. For example, AntiSec members published a document with links to the stolen Stratfor data titled, “Anonymous Lulzxmas rooting you proud” on a file sharing website.

The following allegations are based on the indictment, the information, the complaints, and statements made at MONSEGUR’s guilty plea:

Hacks by Anonymous, Internet Feds, and LulzSec

Since at least 2008, Anonymous has been a loose confederation of computer hackers and others. MONSEGUR and other members of Anonymous took responsibility for a number of cyber attacks between December 2010 and June 2011, including denial of service (“DoS”) attacks against the websites of Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, as retaliation for the refusal of these companies to process donations to Wikileaks, as well as hacks or DoS attacks on foreign government computer systems.

Between December 2010 and May 2011, members of Internet Feds similarly waged a deliberate campaign of online destruction, intimidation, and criminality. Members of Internet Feds engaged in a series of cyber attacks that included breaking into computer systems, stealing confidential information, publicly disclosing stolen confidential information, hijacking victims’ e-mail and Twitter accounts, and defacing victims’ Internet websites. Specifically, ACKROYD, DAVIS, MARTYN, O’CEARRBHAIL, and MONSEGUR, as members of InternetFeds, conspired to commit computer hacks including: the hack of the website of Fine Gael, a political party in Ireland; the hack of computer systems used by security firms HBGary, Inc. and its affiliate HBGary Federal, LLC, from which Internet Feds stole confidential data pertaining to 80,000 user accounts; and the hack of computer systems used by Fox Broadcasting Company, from which Internet Feds stole confidential data relating to more than 70,000 potential contestants on “X-Factor,” a Fox television show.

In May 2011, following the publicity that they had generated as a result of their hacks, including those of Fine Gael and HBGary, ACKROYD, DAVIS, MARTYN, and MONSEGUR formed and became the principal members of a new hacking group called “Lulz Security” or “LulzSec.” Like Internet Feds, LulzSec undertook a campaign of malicious cyber assaults on the websites and computer systems of various business and governmental entities in the United States and throughout the world. Specifically, ACKROYD, DAVIS, MARTYN, and MONSEGUR, as members of LulzSec, conspired to commit computer hacks including the hacks of computer systems used by the PBS, in retaliation for what LulzSec perceived to be unfavorable news coverage in an episode of the news program “Frontline”; Sony Pictures Entertainment, in which LulzSec stole confidential data concerning approximately 100,000 users of Sony’s website; and Bethesda Softworks, a video game company based in Maryland, in which LulzSec stole confidential information for approximately 200,000 users of Bethesda’s website.

The Stratfor Hack

In December 2011, HAMMOND conspired to hack into computer systems used by Stratfor, a private firm that provides governments and others with independent geopolitical analysis. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators, as members of AntiSec, stole confidential information from those computer systems, including Stratfor employees’ e-mails as well as account information for approximately 860,000 Stratfor subscribers or clients. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators stole credit card information for approximately 60,000 credit card users and used some of the stolen data to make unauthorized charges exceeding $700,000. HAMMOND and his co-conspirators also publicly disclosed some of the confidential information they had stolen.

The Hack of International Law Enforcement

In January 2012, O’CEARRBHAIL hacked into the personal e-mail account of an officer with Ireland’s national police service, the An Garda Siochana (the “Garda”). Because the Garda officer had forwarded work e-mails to a personal account, O’CEARRBHAIL learned information about how to access a conference call that the Garda, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies were planning to hold on January 17, 2012 regarding international investigations of Anonymous and other hacking groups. O’CEARRBHAIL then accessed and secretly recorded the January 17 international law enforcement conference call, and then disseminated the illegally-obtained recording to others.

***

MONSEGUR, 28, of New York, New York, pled guilty to three counts of computer hacking conspiracy, five counts of computer hacking, one count of computer hacking in furtherance of fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. He faces a maximum sentence of 124 years and six months in prison.

ACKROYD, 23, of Doncaster, United Kingdom; DAVIS, 29, of Lerwick, Shetland Islands, United Kingdom; and MARTYN, 25, of Galway, Ireland, each are charged with two counts of computer hacking conspiracy. Each conspiracy count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

O’CEARRBHAIL, 19, of Birr, Ireland, is charged in the indictment with one count of computer hacking conspiracy, for which he faces 10 years in prison. He is also charged in the complaint with one count of intentionally disclosing an unlawfully intercepted wire communication, for which he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

HAMMOND, 27, of Chicago, Illinois, is charged with one count of computer hacking conspiracy, one count of computer hacking, and one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

DAVIS is separately facing criminal charges in the United Kingdom, which remain pending, and ACKROYD is being interviewed today by the Police Central e-crime Unit in the United Kingdom. O’CEARRBHAIL was arrested today by the Garda.

The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The investigation was initiated and led by the FBI, and its New York Cyber Crime Task Force, which is a federal, state, and local law enforcement task force combating cybercrime, with assistance from the PCeU; a unit of New Scotland Yard’s Specialist Crime Directorate, SCD6; the Garda; the Criminal Division’s CCIPS; and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of California, the Central District of California, the Northern District of Georgia, and the Eastern District of Virginia; as well as the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

The charges contained in the indictment and complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

‘Anonymous’ hits Stratfor

Editor’s Note – SUA is familiar with the hacking activities of ‘Anonymous’ as we too were part of an earlier breech through a service provider, so our sentiments go out to our friends at Stratfor. Like all security services, one cannot control all access points, and central points of failure are the target of people who have nothing but time on their hands for such devious deeds. Also, every breech that gets sealed is a learning experience, but we know as one hole is repaired, more will be found.

SUA has been constantly monitoring the newest war zone, Cyber-space, not only from the hackers who entertain themselves with these Robin Hood style attacks, but more importantly, attacks from our enemies like the Chinese military, intellectual property theft, and SCADA damage.

Stratfor Targeted by Hacking Group Anonymous

Hackers posted what they claimed to be personal details of the company’s clients on the information-sharing site Pastebin.

By: Nathan Eddy

The loosely-associated band of hackers known as Anonymous claims to have targeted the global intelligence think tank Strategic Forecasting, known as Stratfor, boasting on the microblogging site Twitter that personal information, including credit card numbers, belonging to Stratfor clients had been stolen. As of Monday morning, Stratfor’s Website was down, with a placeholder page saying the site was undergoing maintenance and asking visitors to “check back soon.”

Following the breach, hackers posted the details of the information on the information-sharing site Pastebin. In an email obtained by Reuters Sunday, Stratfor acknowledged an unauthorized breach. “As a result of this incident, the operation of Stratfor’s servers and email have been suspended,” the company wrote. Stratfor also issued an email to its members, which was obtained by the Associated Press, warning that some names and personal information would wind up on other sites.

“We are diligently investigating the extent to which subscriber information may have been obtained,” read the letter, signed by company CEO George Friedman. “Stratfor’s relationship with its members and, in particular, the confidentiality of their subscriber information, are very important to Stratfor and me.”

Anonymous has defaced and shut down Websites belonging to the music industry, companies that severed ties with WikiLeaks and various government agencies. The FBI and international law-enforcement agencies have been investigating the attacks and making arrests for the past few months. The Department of Homeland Security has begun to take Anonymous and other non-professional cyber-attackers more seriously as it issued warnings about potential attacks earlier this year.

In September, Obama administration officials spoke about the need for increased penalties for computer crimes in light of increased data breaches and hacking activity. The increase in computer crime, including Anonymous-led distributed denial-of-service attacks, Website attacks where data is stolen and general online mayhem, has led the White House to call for an increase in criminal penalties for computer crimes.

Online attacks have become more serious as attackers target sensitive personal data and corporate secrets and undermine infrastructure security. However, the penalties under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act don’t match the seriousness or complexity of cyber-crime, Associate Deputy Attorney General James Baker and Secret Service Deputy Special Agent in Charge, Criminal Investigative Division, Pablo Martinez said Sept. 7 in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The proposal was based on the White House’s cyber-security plan unveiled in May.

From Geekhat:

Whitehat security firm Stratfor underwent a massive hack by Anonymous hackers on eve of Christmas or should we tell ‘LulzXmas’ as the Anonymous would call it. STRATFOR provides intelligence to a range of commercial and government customers, and has been beefing up its coverage of cyber, and specifically of Anonymous. Official website of Stratfor stratfor.com went offline after the attack but those interested can view a mirror of the deface.

Anonymous hackers posted this youtube video at the top of the defaced page: