LulzSec Disbands Before Its Members Are Outed

A letter expresses support for further disclosures, just not by them

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Internet hacking group Lulz Security, or LulzSec, announced via Twitter Saturday night that it is disbanding. In conjunction with the announcement the group posted a typically jolly letter describing their efforts as disrupting corporations and governments "just because we could." The letter stated continuing support for the so-called AntiSec movement and envisioned grand results: "Please don't stop. Together, united, we can stomp down our common oppressors and imbue ourselves with the power and freedom we deserve."

Though the group, which has gained widespread attention after compromising computer systems of PBS, Fox News, Sony, and the CIA among others, didn't give a reason for their unexpected cease fire there is speculation that disbanding 50 days after their initial attack is a strategic effort on the part of its members to remain personally anonymous.
On Tuesday British Police arrested 19-year old Ryan Cleary and charged him with hacking into the the UK's Serious Organized Crime Agency's computer systems to coordinate a distributed denial of service attack. Though  LulzSec denied Cleary is a member, his arrest was part of a joint FBI Scotland Yard investigation into the group and his rooting out may suggest the authorities were getting a little too warm for comfort.  After his arrest LulzSec tweeted that "Ryan Cleary is not part of LulzSec; we house one of our many legitimate chatrooms on his IRC server, but that's it."
On Friday Guardian writers Charles Arthur and Josh Halliday pointed out the inherent danger in high profile hacking; that is, publicly crowing about victories while wishing to remain anonymous and evade law enforcement efforts. The Guardian described the threat to hacking groups like LulzSec as coming from two directions at once: traditional law enforcement and rival hackers annoyed by LulzSec's activity:
"The latter move more slowly, but are more dangerous; the former are quicker and can draw in the latter. LulzSec have prompted the ire of a powerful hacker, The Jester, an American ex-military operator who works alone. The Jester is only one of a number of rival hackers threatening to blow the lid off LulzSec. Others are angry too, calling LulzSec "suicide bombers of the internet" for their lack of any clear agenda."
The Jester did post documents that he claimed--falsely or not--to reveal the identities of LulzSec members who go by the handles Sabu and Tapiary. This followed several chatroom tiffs  in which LulzSec members openly discussed maintaining a low profile and member Sabu reminded members of tight security following a June 3rd hack of an FBI website. "You realize we smacked the FBI today. This means everyone in here must remain extremely secure."
Factoring in the realtively high cost of getting caught and the realtively low cost of disbanding, the Guardian piece concluded that "the simplest thing for LulzSec to do may be just to quietly split up – and for its members to deny forever that they ever belonged to the group." Wittingly or not, LulzSec appears to have followed this advice.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.