Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Anonymous Jeremy Hammond Arrested. Chicago man, 27, charged in cyber attack

A 27-year-old Chicago man was one of five computer hackers charged Tuesday for crimes related to high-profile cyber attacks against major corporations and government entities. A sixth alleged hacker has pled guilty in the case.


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Jeremy Hammond was arrested late Monday in Chicago.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed that it raided a home in the 2900 block of South Quinn in the Bridgeport neighborhood.

Authorities have been investigating Anonymous, a decentralized international collective of "hacktivists," or people who use computer networks for political protests and other actions. Anonymous is connected to a number of related groups, including LulzSec, Internet Feds and AntiSec.

According to federal authorities, Hammond identified himself as a member of AntiSec. He was charged with counts of computer hacking conspiracy, computer hacking and conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Authorities said he conspired to hack into the computer systems of Stratfor, an Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm that conducts geopolitical analysis for governments and other clients, in December. Hammond and fellow AntiSec members stole confidential information, including employee e-mails and account information for about 860,000 Stratfor clients, according to authorities. They also allegedly stole credit card information for about 60,000 users and made $700,000 in unauthorized charges.

According to federal authorities, Hammond was known online by a variety of monikers, including "Anarchaos," "tylerknowsthis" and "crediblethreat." AntiSec members had posted a document with links to the stolen Stratfor information on a file-sharing website and called it "Anonymous Lulzxmas rooting you proud," affirming their relationship with Anonymous, authorities said.

During an appearance Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, Hammond was ordered removed in custody to New York to face the federal hacking charges there.

After the hearing, as he stood in a narrow hallway, Hammond appeared curious. He asked deputy marshals if he could keep a copy of the criminal complaint since he had no idea about the charges until his arrest Tuesday morning.

His lawyer, James Fennerty, said he considers Hammond a likable man with strongly held beliefs.

Among the groups Hammond is connected to is LulzSec. The Internet term "lulz" is a variant of "LOL," the well-known abbreviation for "laughing out loud." Lulz typically is used in connection with Internet pranks and trolling or disruptive and inflammatory online behavior designed to provoke emotional responses on forums such as message boards.

Authorities say the member of LulzSec, Anonymous and Internet Fed who has pled guilty in the case is Hector Xavier Monsegur, a 28-year-old New Yorker. Federal court papers in his case were unsealed on Tuesday in New York, revealing that he pleaded guilty to 12 charges in August.

In addition to Hammond and Monsegur, federal authorities identified four other men connected to Anonymous and LulzSec who were charged with computer hacking and other crimes: Ryan Ackroyd, Jake Davis, Darren Martyn and Donncha O'Cearrbhail.

Monsegur and other members of Anonymous took responsibility for a series of attacks against commercial and government computer systems between December 2010 and June 2011, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York.

Federal authorities said Anonymous has been operating since at least 2008. Some of these attacks took the form of denial of service, or DoS, attacks, which involve overloading a computer network so it can't provide its regular service. In one of the attacks, Monsegur targeted Visa, Mastercard and Paypal to disrupt their Web sites in retaliation for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks, the organization run by Julian Assange that disseminated classiied government and diplomatic documents.

Other entities identified as being victims of hackers were foreign government computer systems, security firm HBGary, Sony Pictures EntertainmentFox Broadcasting Co.and Public Broadcasting Service. In that attack,  members of LulzSec, Monsegur and three others hacked the PBS computer systems in retaliation for what LulzSec perceived to be unfavorable  coverage in an episode of the news program Frontline, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

The attacks included stealing confidential information and making it public, hijacking e-mail and Twitter accounts and defacing websites. Among the alleged victims whose information was compromised were 70,000 potential contestants on the Fox television show "X-Factor," 100,000 users of Sony's website and 200,000 website users ofBethesda Softworks, a Maryland video game company.

In another alleged attack, Monsegur and others attacked the computer system of Tribune Co., parent of the Chicago Tribune. The group "misappropriated login credentials to access the Tribune Co.'s computer system without authorization," the government's criminal information said.

Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment.

Last month, the Tribune's Facebook page was flooded with hundreds of comments calling for the media to fight for the release of Hamza Kashgari, a jailed Saudi writer. Anonymous had directed its Facebook followers to post a pre-written messages on the Tribune's Facebook page, as well as that of the Wall Street Journal.


The message to the Tribune ended with this salutation: "We are Anonymous. We are millions. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us!"

Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney contributed to this story.

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