According to court documents, Anonymous hacktivist Hector Xavier Monsegur – more commonly known by his handle Sabu – was instrumental in helpiong government authorities counter over three-hundred attacks while acting as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“A prominent hacker set to be sentenced in federal court this week for breaking into numerous computer systems worldwide has provided a trove of information to the authorities, allowing them to disrupt at least 300 cyberattacks on targets that included the United States military, Congress, the federal courts, NASA and private companies, according to a newly filed government court document.” the New York Times reported.
“The amount of loss prevented by Monsegur’s actions is difficult to fully quantify, but even a conservative estimate would yield a loss prevention figure in the millions of dollars,” court documents stated.
The document praising Monsegur’s cooperation was submitted by prosecutors who are leniency in sentencing, scheduled for nest Tuesday in the Federal District Court in Manhattan, in light of his “extraordinary cooperation.”
Monsegur, who was arrested in 2011 for his malicious hacking activities and is set face sentencing next week, has been a confidential informant for the FBI for several years and is believed to have provided intelligence on other Anonymous members in an effort to reduce the likelihood of a lengthy prison sentence.
During the period he had been cooperating with law enforcement investigations, it was alleged that he directed other hackers to conduct attacks on more than 2,000 domains in 2012 alone, with many of the targeted websites being operated by the Iranian, Syrian, and Brazilian governments.
Given how closely the FBI was monitoring Monsegur, speculation has arisen about exactly what role the agency played in the attacks he is believed to have orchestrated, and the fact that his sentencing hearings keep getting postponed may be indicative that he is still actively working with law enforcement.
“The details of the 2012 episode have, until now, been kept largely a secret in closed sessions of a federal court in New York and heavily redacted documents,” the New York Times report stated. “While the documents do not indicate whether the F.B.I. directly ordered the attacks, they suggest that the government may have used hackers to gather intelligence overseas even as investigators were trying to dismantle hacking groups like Anonymous and send computer activists away for lengthy prison terms.”
The attacks leveraged a vulnerability in Parallels’ Plesk, the control panel application for Web hosting services, and the zero-day bug was not disclosed to the company until February of 2012, leading some to believe that the FBI may have known about the vulnerability but did not report it so that it could be utilized in the attacks.