To the benefit of Americans, the term “WikiLeaks” has become something of a household name. Between Assange’s brainchild and the worldwide hacker-collective, Anonymous, it’s most assured that the true gravity of hacktivism, whether known by this term or not, can be felt right down to the average home. Renowned hacker collectives such as Anon or LulzSec (the latter of which has been the victim of a fatal federal erosion after many prominent corporate hacks) often stand for nothing but simply the concept of revolution—what some would politically coin as “anarchism” and what most hackers would call “full disclosure”, which is a brute-force style hacking tactic meant to expose any and all bugs in the victimized program, to expose these bugs no matter the cost. In essence, it has a very dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest aspect that is hard to miss, and this can sometimes steer the average person away. The morbid, cyber-punk-esque editing presence of the Anonymous releases coupled with the face of Guy Fawkes can make the un-informed viewer feel like they’ve perhaps teetered into a dystopian science fiction novel, but behind the theatrics is where the true spectacles sit, and all too often it seems that the true spectacles are forgotten. Many would have a viewer led to believe that there’s no bark to the bite, but one can always expect real rebels to really rebel. While this is not exactly current news, it’s undoubtedly an event that none should forget, and is something that is still currently affecting all Americans, and many elsewhere.
Enter #OperationAntiSec, December 6th of 2011. The official story as reported by the New York Times is that the FBI was made aware of the attack well after the hacking breach against the company Stratfor, a private intelligence firm. Quoting an informative Daily Dot article, “The FBI claims Hammond informed Monsegur—also known by the online alias Sabu—of the vulnerability at Stratfor. In turn, the FBI immediately notified the intelligence company, though at that point it was already ’too late.’” Hammond’s first name is Jeremy, a heavily renowned activist of the hacking type and many other sorts, having been arrested on numerous occasions, once for violence as part of a community protest against a Neo Nazi march. Serving ten yearsfor this hack (the longest term his cyber-criminal sentencing can earn), he has a laundry list of activism and a history of working with Anonymous. Hector Xavier Monsegur, also known by his former hacker alias “Sabu”, was the co-founder and “most expert” hacker of the blackhat computer hacking group, LulzSec, which broken down is “Lulz”: an online measurement gauge for laughing out loud; and “Sec” for security. The aftermath of #OperationAntiSec eventually uncovered Monsegur’s close involvement with the FBI as an informant since August 15th 2011 as part of a plea deal. The Feds agreed not to prosecute Monsegur for his computer hacking, two attempts to sell cannabis, credit card identity theft, “middle-manning” for illegal prescription drugs, possession of an illegal firearm, and the purchase of stolen property and in turn, Monsegur used his hacking prowess and co-founder pull with LulzSec to create a honey pot, allowing law enforcement to illegally entrap and eventually out Jake Davis from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, alias “Topiary”; Mustafa Al-Bassam of London, alias “Tflow”; Ryan Cleary of London, alias apparently, simply “Ryan”; Darren Martyn of Ireland, alias “pwnsauce”; Ryan Ackroyd of London, alias “Kayla”; Donncha O’Cearrbhail of Ireland, alias “palladium”; and Hammond, from Chicago, alias “Anarchaos” and the one of the only two members of the list not directly affiliated with LulzSec. The last hacker, alias “Hyrriiya”, is still on the lam and even attempted to help Hammond’s legal defense with instant-messaged tips like:
“I would advise you to request all logs of the #antisec main channel on irc.cryto.net… I also spoke with Sabu at length in Private Message on irc.cryto.net, and as such, the FBI should have complete logs of my PMs with Sabu regarding the Stratfor hack as well.”
He also wrote a statement for the Hammond Defense Team in May of 2012, saying, “I am stating and admitting, AS FACT, that I was the person who hacked Stratfor.” Hyrriya is a well-known and successful Anonymous hacker.
However, Hammond was self-admittedly quite guilty as well. Speaking from his correctional facility to a reporter of The Daily Dot: “[The FBI] could’ve stopped me. They could’ve. They knew about it. They could’ve stopped dozens of sites I was breaking into.” Also stating on record: “I had never even heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought it to my attention.” Confirming this, The Daily Dot and Motherboard strut the obtainment of sealed court documents that show the attack to be orchestrated and instigated by Sabu the informant. And on top of facilitating the breach, the FBI left Stratfor and its customers—which included employees for companies like Monsanto, the NSA, NATO, Raytheon, IACP (the International Association of Chiefs of Police), and Booz Allen Hamilton (which happens to be Ed Snowden’s former employer)—vulnerable to future attacks and fraud, also requesting knowledge of the data theft to be withheld from all customers. Stratfor’s chairman, George Friedman released a statement on January 11th of 2012, explaining that “in early December” an FBI special agent had requested the company’s cooperation during the current investigations into attacks on Stratfor. As well, the FBI specifically urged the company not to alert its subscribers of any credit card data theft. “I felt bound to protect our customers, who quickly had to be informed about the compromise of their privacy,” Friedman wrote. “I also felt bound to protect the investigation. That immediate problem was solved when the FBI told us it had informed the various credit card companies and had provided those companies with a list of compromised cards while omitting that it had come from us. Our customers were therefore protected, as the credit card companies knew the credit cards and other information had been stolen and could act to protect the customers. We were not compelled to undermine the investigation.”
During his trial, Hammond claimed said that he and Monsegur had started meeting in secured online chatrooms, where Monsegur claimed to be in contact with Hyrriiya, who claimed to have access to Stratfor’s databases. During the correspondence between Hyrriiya and Monsegur, Hyrriiya promised access to Stratfor and provided details for eight credit cards from their database to further prove his infiltration capabilities. The data included names, credit card numbers, expiration dates, credit card security codes, billing addresses, etc. When they found their way into Monsegur’s hands, he immediately sent them to Hammond which, according to the chat logs obtained and reviewed by The Daily Dot (easily viewable online) indeed precisely match the stolen financial data given to Monsegur by Hyrriiya.
The feline was finally and aggressively released from the bag on December 24th, which began a two-day period referred to by the hacking community as “LulzXmas.” A team of hackers virtually vandalized Stratfor’s website, gathered over 5 million internal office emails that were later published by WikiLeaks as The Global Intelligence Files, and deleted numerous key databases completely. The hackers also reportedly charged at least $700,000—much of it in the form of donations to charities, but not all—to the compromised credit cards of Stratfor customers. The FBI’s official statement on the matter was the storage of the data on personal servers outside of federal reach, seeming to show that their honey pot had slipped from their grasp and shattered on the floor—or, perhaps they threw it against a wall. In the end, Strator settled a class-action lawsuit in June of 2012 with affected customers for a reported $1.75 million, but an internal Stratfor memo obtained by The Daily Dot drafted prior to the settlement,brought the resulting cost of the attack to roughly $4 million. While it will probably always remain unclear how much of the entrapment was Sabu’s own accord, it is historically known of the FBI to keep full control over its informants. With this being said, “Monsegur served 7 months in prison after his arrest but had been free since then while awaiting sentencing. At his sentencing on May 27, 2014 he was given ‘time served’ for cooperating with the FBI and set free under one year of probation.” This is quite a fortunate and incredible reduction from his original 124 years for his involvement with LulzSec and their long list of hacks—one of which being a hack of Fox News’ Twitter account to falsely publicly announce the Assassination of President Obama. Although not directly associated with Anonymous, he was clearly involved in the circle, and so the hacker-collective’s official response on Twitter to Monsegur’s betrayal was: “#Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back.”
“Sabu avoided a prison sentence, but the consequences of his actions will haunt him for the rest of his life,” Hammond wrote from prison. “Not even halfway through my time, I would still rather be where I’m at; while they can take away your freedom temporarily, your honor lasts forever.” Lifted from Wikipedia: “In November 2012, after being held for eight months without trial, Hammond was denied bail by Judge Loretta A. Preska, who warned that he could face life imprisonment for the Stratfor leak… After pleading guilty to one count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Hammond was sentenced on November 15, 2013, to the maximum of ten years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He is currently serving his sentence in FCI Manchester in Manchester, Kentucky.” Affiliated Anonymous journalist and admitted former member, Barrett Brown, also received a 63 month sentence for his “role” in the hack, doing nothing more than receiving a link to hacked information and sending it to more individuals.
While the concept of full disclosure might be something that not everyone can get onboard with, this should only be due to tact—not necessity, intention, or result. In psychological perspective, full disclosure can be illustrated as a detoxification of the somatic through the psyche—an attempt to cleanse through data distribution. When it comes to groups of individuals, it shouldn’t be a matter of debate whether or not it is a right or wrong thing to withhold information. Personal, A-to-B relationships are of an entirely debatable, personal discretion—but when you deal with the many, there is an undoubted need for complete and full disclosure, and if the operators of the system are afraid of chaos from this disclosure then the fault inherently lies within the system and not the information within it. Furthermore, should anyone really be punished for being tired of their current system of life and trying to make a difference? In terms of stolen money, it was all federally reimbursed, so what it boils down to here is the principle. When one contemplates this question of full disclosure and others like it, do they feel angry that their beloved “systems” of philosophical principle were breached, or do they feel that perhaps it is about time someone pulled over and popped the hood to check on the smoking engine? Whether it’s the GMOs poisoning our food supply, fluoride toxifying our water, the government’s role in the orchestration of 9/11, the overwhelming imperialism suffocating the Middle East, the tendency to cover-up sporadic radioactive catastrophe, or the prohibition of all therapeutic psychedelic compounds or any of the other buzzing federal topics, it’s surprising that anyone is still debating the answer anymore.