Hacker Freed From Prison After Helping the FBI Catch Other Hackers

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A New York court agreed to release a well-known hacker who spent only seven months in jail for perpetrating significant attacks against the government and private businesses, in exchange for the key role he played in helping the government catch other cyber criminals and preventing countless attacks. 

Hector Xavier Monsegur, went by the name Sabu in his hacking, agreed to work with the FBI when he was first apprehended in 2011. He has served as an informant and aide since then, and was praised today by prosecutors, who wrote that he helped "disrupt or prevent at least 300 hacks" targeting the military, Congress and "several private companies." They added, "Monsegur's actions prevented at least millions of dollars in loss to these victims." Additionally, Sabu "contributed directly to the identification, prosecution and conviction of eight of his major co-conspirators." Included in this figure is Jeremy Hammond, who was Washington's top cyber criminal target when he was arrested in 2012. 

Sabu's willingness to turn over former colleagues to the government was, not surprisingly, panned by members of the hacking community: 

An Anonymous representative told the Guardian that Sabu's cooperation with the government doesn't make him any less of a criminal, saying: 

Monsegur is, first and foremost, a criminal; the FBI’s cyber crime task force are his co-conspirators. While operating under their supervision, Monsegur committed numerous felonies which should in no way be excused due to his protected informant status... The FBI continues to use captured informants, who commit egregious crimes in pursuit of reduced sentences, for the sole purpose of creating ‘examples’ to frighten the public. They do this with the hope of pacifying online dissent and snuffing out journalistic investigations into the US government’s misconduct.

Sabu's crimes do, indeed, seem to warrant a more severe sentence than the seven months in prison and a year's supervised release doled out to him by the court. Had Sabu, who helped found LulzSec and worked with Anonymous, not cooperated with the government, he could have served a prison sentence of up to 26 years. And it's possible that Sabu had more of a mastermind status than the lenient punishment would imply, per the Guardian

What was not discussed during Monsegur’s sentencing on Tuesday was that when he was convicted, Hammond claimed that Monsegur himself had directed much of his criminal activity, including attempts to break into the websites of foreign governments.

On the other hand, according to the prosecution, Sabu faced a great deal of risk in agreeing to work with the government. "During the course of his cooperation, the threat to Monsegur and his family became severe enough that the FBI relocated Monsegur and certain of his family members. Monsegur repeatedly was approached on the street and threatened or menaced about his cooperation once it became publicly known." Perhaps given his many enemies, he may not be any safer as a free man.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.