- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 6, 2012

NEW YORK — A group of expert hackers who attacked governments and corporations around the globe has been busted after its ringleader — one of the world’s most-wanted computer vandals — turned against his comrades and secretly became an informant for the FBI months ago, authorities said Tuesday.

Five people, including a Chicago man, were charged in court papers unsealed in federal court in New York, and authorities revealed that a sixth person, Hector Xavier Monsegur, a legendary figure known in the hacking underworld as “Sabu,” has pleaded guilty in New York, where he lives.

Authorities said it marked the first significant prosecution of major Internet hackers.

According to court papers, members of the group got their start as part of a large worldwide hacking organization known as Anonymous, which authorities said has been operating at least since 2008. Court papers accused Anonymous of a “deliberate campaign of online destruction, intimidation and criminality.”

In chat rooms and on Twitter, Anonymous supporters erupted into a chorus of disappointment, confusion, and anger. Some wondered whether the news was an elaborate fraud. Others revisited earlier suspicions that “Sabu” was a government agent.

As members of Anonymous surveyed the damage Tuesday, one of its most popular Twitter feeds assured its followers that it was still OK.

“We’re sailing close to the wind,” the feed read. “Our crew is complete and doing fine.”

Mr. Monsegur was portrayed in court papers as the ringleader of some of the group’s more infamous deeds. Authorities said he formed an elite hacking organization in May — a spinoff of Anonymous — and named it “Lulz Security” or “LulzSec.”

Their exploits included attacks on cybersecurity firms and the posting of a fake story that slain rapper Tupac Shakur was alive in New Zealand. As their exploits became known, some hackers associated with the group boasted about their prowess.

Mr. Monsegur, free on $50,000 bail, was charged with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, among other offenses. Authorities said he pleaded guilty Aug. 15. Word of his cooperation was contained in court records.

According to the court papers, he was an influential member of three hacking organizations — Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulz Security. Court papers said he acted as a “rooter,” a hacker who identified vulnerabilities in computer systems.

The court papers said he participated in attacks over the past few years on Visa, MasterCard and PayPal; government computers in Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe; Fox Broadcasting Co. and the Tribune Co.; PBS; and the U.S. Senate.

Also charged in court papers with conspiracy to commit computer hacking were Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn, Donncha O’Cearrbhail and Jeremy Hammond. Three were arrested Tuesday; Mr. Davis and Mr. Martyn were previously arrested.

Mr. Hammond, who is from Chicago, appeared before a federal judge there and was ordered transferred to New York. Mr. Martyn and Mr. O’Cearrbhail lived in Ireland, Mr. Ackroyd and Mr. Davis in Britain.

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