Members of the biggest vigilante group online “Anonymous” operates in complete secrecy. They choose to have their lives in shadows as they are wearing masks in protesting publicly. Its members are hacking government and companies computer systems.
Few years ago, one of the members of “Anonymous”, Hector Monsegur also known as Sabu was caught by FBI and started to work as undercover agent of the US government. And for the first time, he is breaking his silence with the public interview now.
Sabu opened up to “CBS This Morning” co-host Charlie Rose about his journey from hacktivist up to informant. He led cyber-attacks resulting to $50 million damages, which made his escape to his harsh life of poverty in New York.
According to Monsegur, he educated himself for all the things that he knows. “You know everybody around me was into something, but it wasn’t computers” he thought.
The moment Sabu got his hands on a used computer; he already had so much passion with computers. For a boy raised in housing project in New York by his grandmother, the internet was his gateway to the world and provided him something bigger.
Monsegur sad, “We were poor, so I needed to find ways that is cheap or free so I could be able to access the internet without giving burden to my grandmother.”
Stated in court documents, Sabu at first had been stalling credit card information and sell the numbers or use them in paying their own bills. In the long run, he joined a hacker’s group and get involved with “Anonymous”, which is a notorious group focusing with social justice and playing with computer systems to uncover their flaws.
According to Monsegur, “Anonymous is an idea, an idea where we could all be anonymous.” “We could all work together as a crowd, united, we could rise and fight against oppression.”
As “Anonymous” grew, Monsegur and his hacker colleagues take the group into a worldwide level.
He hacked the prime minister’s website during the Arab Spring in Tunisia, and posted a letter supporting the protestors. According to Monsegur, it was amazing! “I saw finally the I was able to do something that contributed to society regardless if I was at home in the Lower East Side, in the projects behind a computer” he said.
Sabu confessed he was behind those thousand hacks. While he was at work with “Anonymous” and his own group Lulzec, he also targeted MasterCard, Visa Card, Paypal, FBI and US Senate. Though he acknowledged the hacking is illegal, he said he was not bothered about being caught.
“After you’re hacking for so long, you reach point of no return” he thought. “Regardless if you fear that they’re going to get you one day, it’s too late,” he added.
In June 2011, Sabu led a blatant attack on InfraGrad, an FBI connected website. Days after, FBI found him at the house where he used to grow up.
Recalling what the FBI said to him, ‘Well, we know who you are, we know what you’re doin’, and we also know you have two kids in the house. You make the decision.’ He thought that they FBI know his weakness and that was the kids.
Sabu decided right away to become FBI informant to avoid the near possibility of serving so many years in prison. In the next 3 years, he constantly communicates with his co-hackers. However, this time, every move is followed by the FBI. Sabu helped the FBI to prevent as much as 300 cyberattacks from the systems controlled by NASA and Military to name a few.
Sabu said “I was able to intercept attacks that were happening against the government and share it with the government so they could fix these issues.”
Monsegur also has a big role played for the arrest of the group co-conspirators. Seven of them pleaded guilty along Jeremy Hammond, the most wanted cybercriminal of FBI.
Until some of his fellow hacktivist had found out Sabu’s cooperation with the FBI as an ultimate betrayal, he was labeled a traitor snitch by his co-hackers.
Monsegur said that he was not in the situation of identifying anyone; he did not point his fingers to anybody. “My cooperation entailed logging and providing intelligence. It didn’t mean ‘Can you please tell me the identity of one of your mates?’” he said.
Sabu insisted that hackers would not even reveal that information since the members in the group will remain as what the name implies, “Anonymous”.
Sabu emphasized the vulnerabilities of the critical systems keeping America online; but threat do still exist. “In all reality there is no security” he said. “Hackers could break right into the airport, the phone systems, obviously, the water supply systems – shut them down.
It may sound alarming; Sabu said that this should be a motivation to the US government to make actions focusing to the country’s infrastructure.
Monsegur said to the interview “We have a sickening reliance on security contractors, the companies that Edward Snowden worked for.” He questioned “Who will guard the guards Charlie? Our security, the people we pay for, the people we hire with tax dollars – are not really secured themselves.”
Early this year, Sabu was sentenced to time served. And from the day his cooperation has been made public, “Anonymous” said it was enduring and tweeted “Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back”.