Yes, this picture again.
The sentencing date of Hector Xavier Monsegur, aka Sabu, used to be a running joke among the cyber activist and journalist community, simply because of the sheer number of times the hacker-turned-FBI-informant's sentencing has been postponed. But tomorrow he's finally expected to be sentenced in New York federal court.
No one thought it would ever happen, prompting Electronic Freedom Foundation support attorney Cathy Elliott Jones to once tweet, “expect Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse before Hector appears.” But this time shouldn't be another fake-out: the government filed court documents outlining Monsegur’s charges this time around, which means the chance of yet another postponement happening is slim.
Monsegur’s sentencing has been delayed at least seven times since his 2011 arrest for hacks carried out with the hacking group LulzSec. Before working for the FBI, Monsegur hacked various government and corporate websites—his greatest hits include HBGary, Fox Television’s reality show “X-Factor,” PBS.org, sonypictures.com, Nintendo, Sony BMG, Bethesda, Senate.gov and “an FBI affiliate in Atlanta, which resulted in the theft of confidential information.”
The government estimates that Monsegur’s actions with LulzSec caused up to $2.5 million in damages. Those are some pretty hefty charges, and yet the government never bothered to sentence Monsegur until now.
The community has long suspected these delays in Monsegur’s sentencing were due to Monsegur continuing to supply the government with information beyond building cases against his LulzSec companions, who also hacked Stratfor under Sabu’s direction.
These companions include four men from the United Kingdom (Ryan “Kayla” Ackroyd, Jake “Topiary” Davis, Mustafa “T-Flow” Al-Bassam, and Ryan “ViraL” Cleary), two Irish citizens (Darren “pwnsauce” Martyn and Donncha “palladium” O’Cearrbhail) and Chicago resident Jeremy “Anarchaos” Hammond, who led the Stratfor hack.
Hammond was a very big get for the government, according to the prosecution's filing; the court documents describe him as the “FBI’s number one cybercriminal target.” Before hacking Stratfor, Hammond was arrested for a handful of various political hacks and acts of in-person protests, including hacking a conservative political group and burning an Olympic bid banner in Chicago’s Daley Plaza.
Monsegur’s cooperation also helped charge former Tribune Company journalist Matthew Keys, who gave passwords to the Tribune website in exchange for access to private chats.
The new court documents sheds new light on Monsegur's time as an informant. It turns out he’s been quite busy these last three years being “extremely valuable and productive.” The filed court document reveals Monsegur helped thwart or mitigate “at least 300” cyberattacks against various government and corporate targets, including attacks carried out against the US military, Congress, various courts, NASA, a security firm, a video game manufacturer, and an electronics conglomerate.
In addition to helping stop these attacks, Monsegur provided the government with information about vulnerabilities in “critical infrastructure,” including a water utility for an American city, and a foreign energy company. The document go on to say “Monsegur’s actions prevented at least millions of dollars in loss.” Monsegur was not, however, involved with the Silk Road bust, as previously rumored, though he was harassed because people assumed he was.
It is because of his “extraordinary” cooperation with the FBI, then, that the government is asking the court to grant Monsegur leniency. That could mean Monsegur won’t have to serve any more time than the seven months he already served after he pled guilty on August 15th, 2011 to nine counts of computer hacking; “one count related to credit card fraud; one count of conspiring to commit bank fraud; and one count of aggravated identity theft.” By comparison, Hammond is currently serving 10 years, the most out of his LulzSec companions.
It’s a sweet deal for a man who has alienated all of his online friends and became the butt of many meme-generated macros. When it became known Monsegur was an informant, the government had to move Sabu and his family out of the projects due to harassment from the community. This includes his two children, who were stalked by a reporter at school.
The entire court document presents Monsegur in a glowing light, and even mentions how Monsegur wanted to start a security company before he got involved with “hacktivism.” Compare that to the characterization of Hammond as a scary, dangerous hacker, and you get a good portrait of what it means to help out the FBI.