Six notorious hackers linked to an international ring have been indicted on charges that they broke into the systems of major companies and stole info from up to 1 million people, officials announced Tuesday, and the ringleader helped the feds catch his cohorts after he was busted - all from his Lower East Side pad, officials added.
Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, who reportedly lived on Avenue D, is one of six men associated with hacking groups LulzSec and Anonymous. Authorities called it the first major prosecution of Internet hackers.
Monsegur, aka "Sabu" - a legend in hacking circles - was busted last summer for his role in the worldwide hacking sprees in 2010 and last year that hit PBS, Fox, PayPal, Visa, Sony, some government websites and many other targets, according to court documents unsealed in Manhattan federal court yesterday. While some hacks were merely a show of force, the groups tapped into private user information and even shut down the FBI's and CIA's websites.
Monsegur pleaded guilty in August to 12 charges, including computer hacking and conspiracy, and since then, he has worked as an informant for authorities, helping to reel in his powerful counterparts in LulzSec and Anonymous.
He is free on a $50,000 bond, and his charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. He had been facing 124 years.
"It's probably not going to be the end of Anonymous, but it's going to take a while for them to recover, especially from the paranoia," said Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at Finnish computer security company F-Secure.
The other five men busted are Jeremy Hammond, 27, of Chicago; Donncha O'Cearrbhail, 19, and Darren Martyn, 25, of Ireland; and Ryan Ackroyd, 23, and Jake Davis, 29, of the United Kingdom. All face at least 10 years behind bars.
Anonymous downplayed the bust in messages posted online, including two Twitter accounts associated with the group, and said it will go on.
"#Anonymous is an idea, not a group. There is no leader, there is no head. It will survive, before, during, and after this time," wrote a user with the handle @AnonOps.
@AnonymousIRC added: "We're sailing close to the wind, our crew is complete and doing fine."
Follow reporter Tim Herrera on Twitter: @tim_herrera