Their presence on the world stage is starting to evolve into a "who done it and why" serial. I omit the "crime" because quite honestly, I am unsure if they are criminals or unsung hero's.
Public opinion truly is split.. with the greater weight for the hacking groups. Those who only hear blurbs on the national news count them as criminals. Those who have followed their activity and have any moral fiber when it comes to governmental/corporate wrongs count them as hero's.
In Europe they receive more accolade than in the United States, where most people tend to be caught up in the political rift that has consumed the nation.
If we ask, "what do they gain from this" the answer is almost chilling. Nothing. They go to jail. For unreasonably periods of time.
What do we gain from this? Everything. We are more informed and those who commit nefarious acts can no longer hide, their deeds are uncovered.
Jailed Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond: 'My days of hacking are done'
Jeremy Hammond, the Anonymous hacktivist who released millions of emails relating to the private intelligence firm Stratfor, has denounced his prosecution and lengthy prison sentence as a “vengeful, spiteful act” designed to put a chill on politically-motivated hacking.
Hammond was sentenced on Friday at federal court in Manhattan to the maximum 10 years in jail, plus three years supervised release. He had pleaded guilty to one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) flowing from his 2011 hack of Strategic Forecasting, Inc, known as Stratfor.
In an interview with the Guardian in the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York, conducted on Thursday, he said he was resigned to a long prison term which he sees as a conscious attempt by the US authorities to put a chill on political hacking.
He had no doubt that his sentence would be long, describing it as a "vengeful, spiteful act". He said of his prosecutors: "They have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me. A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face.”
Most pointedly, Hammond suggested that the FBI may have manipulated him to carry out hacking attacks on “dozens” of foreign government websites. During his time with Anonymous, the loose collective of hackers working alongside WikiLeaks and other anti-secrecy groups, he was often directed by a individual known pseudonomously on the web as “Sabu”, the leader of the Anonymous-affiliated group Lulzsec, who turned out to be an FBI informant.
Hammond, who is under court orders restricting what he says in public, told the Guardian that Sabu presented him with a list of targets, including many foreign government sites, and encouraged him to break into their computer systems. He said he was not sure whether Sabu was in turn acting on behalf of the FBI or other US government agency, but it was even possible that the FBI was using Sabu’s internet handle directly as contact between the two hackers was always made through cyberspace, never face-to-face.
“It is kind of funny that here they are sentencing me for hacking Stratfor, but at the same time as I was doing that an FBI informant was suggesting to me foreign targets to hit. So you have to wonder how much they really care about protecting the security of websites.”
In the interview, conducted in a secure prison meeting room hours before the 28-year-old Chicagoan was sentenced, he was sanguine about his prospects. “I knew when I started out with Anonymous that being put in jail and having a lengthy sentence was a possibility. Given the nature of the targets I was going after I knew I would upset a lot of powerful people.”
Dressed in a brown prison jump suit, and with a long wispy goatee and moustache (he planned to shave both off before the sentencing hearing), Hammond was scathing about the way the CFAA was being twisted in his view for political ends. “They are widening the definition of what is covered by the Act and using it to target specifically political activists,” he said.
He invoked the memory of Aaron Swartz, the open-data crusader who killed himself in January while awaiting trial under the CFAA for releasing documents from behind the subscription-only paywall of an online research group. “The same beast bit us both,” Hammond said. “They went after Aaron because of his involvement in legitimate political causes – they railroaded charges against him, and look what happened.”
Hammond has been in custody since March 2012 having been arrested in Chicago on suspicion of the Stratfor leak of millions of emails that were eventually released by Wikileaks as the Global Intelligence Files. His sentence is an indication of the aggression with which prosecutors have been pursuing political hackers in the US – other Anonymous members in Britain involved in the breach of Stratfor were sentenced to much shorter jail terms.
Hammond stressed that he had not benefitted personally in any way from the Stratfor email release, that exposed surveillance by private security firms on activists including Anonymous members themselves, Occupy protesters and campaigners in Bhopal, India involved in the push for compensation for victims of the 1984 industrial catastrophe. “Our main purpose in carrying out the Stratfor hack was to find out what private security and intelligence companies were doing, though none of us had any idea of the scale of it.”
Paradoxically, Hammond insists that he would never have carried out the breach of Stratfor’s computer system had he not been led into doing it by Sabu – real name Hector Xavier Monsegur – the fellow hacker who is himself awaiting sentencing having pleaded guilty to 12 hacking-related criminal charges. “I had never heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought in another hacker who told me about it. Practically, I would never have done the Stratfor hack without Sabu’s involvement.”
Hammond discovered that Monsegur was an FBI informant the day after his own arrest. As he was reading the criminal complaint against him, he saw quotes marked CW for “co-operating witness” that contained details that could only have come from Sabu.
“I felt betrayed, obviously. Though I knew these things happen. What surprised me was that Sabu was involved in so much strategic targeting, in actually identifying targets. He gave me the information on targets.”
Part of Sabu’s interest in him, he now believes, was that Hammond had access to advanced tools including one known as PLESK that allowed him to break into web systems used by large numbers of foreign governments. “The FBI and NSA are clearly able to do their own hacking of other countries. But when a new vulnerability emerges in internet security, sometimes hackers have access to tools that are ahead of them that can be very valuable,” he said.
Looking back on his involvement with anonymous, the Chicagoan said that he had been drawn to work with Anonymous, because he saw it as “a model of resistance – it was decentralised, leaderless.” He grew increasingly political in his hacking focus, partly under the influence of the Occupy movement that began in Wall Street in September 2011 and spread across the country.
Chelsea Manning, the US soldier formerly known as Bradley who leaked a massive trove of state secrets to WikiLeaks now serving a 35-year sentence in military jail, was a major influence on him. Manning showed him that “powerful institutions – whether military or private security firms – are involved in unaccountable activities that the public is totally unaware of that can only be exposed by whistleblowers and hackers”.
Hammond has often described himself as an anarchist. He has a tattoo on his left shoulder of the anarchy symbol with the words: “Freedom, equality, anarchy”. Another tattoo on his left forearm shows the Chinese representation of “leader” or “army”, and a third tattoo on his right forearm is a glider signifying the hacking open-source movement that is drawn from the computer simulation Game of Life.
He says he plans to use his time in prison “reading, writing, working out and playing sports – training myself to become more disciplined so I can be more effective on my release”. As to that release, he says he cannot predict how he will be thinking when he emerges from jail, but doubts that he would go back to hacking. “I think my days of hacking are done. That’s a role for somebody else now,” he said.
FBI warns that Anonymous has hacked US government sites for a year
Official memo says that activist collective launched a rash of electronic break-ins beginning last December
(Reuters) - Activist hackers linked to the collective known as Anonymous have secretly accessed U.S. government computers in multiple agencies and stolen sensitive information in a campaign that began almost a year ago, the FBI warned this week.
The hackers exploited a flaw in Adobe Systems Inc's software to launch a rash of electronic break-ins that began last December, then left "back doors" to return to many of the machines as recently as last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said in a memo seen by Reuters.
The memo, distributed on Thursday, described the attacks as "a widespread problem that should be addressed." It said the breach affected the U.S. Army, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and perhaps many more agencies.
Investigators are still gathering information on the scope of the cyber campaign, which the authorities believe is continuing. The FBI document tells system administrators what to look for to determine if their systems are compromised.
An FBI spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
According to an internal email from Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz' chief of staff, Kevin Knobloch, the stolen data included personal information on at least 104,000 employees, contractors, family members and others associated with the Department of Energy, along with information on almost 2,0000 bank accounts.
The email, dated October 11, said officials were "very concerned" that loss of the banking information could lead to thieving attempts.
Officials said the hacking was linked to the case of Lauri Love, a British resident indicted on October 28 for allegedly hacking into computers at the Department of Energy, Army, Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Sentencing Commission and elsewhere.
Investigators believe the attacks began when Love and others took advantage of a security flaw in Adobe's ColdFusion software, which is used to build websites.
Adobe spokeswoman Heather Edell said she was not familiar with the FBI report. She added that the company has found that the majority of attacks involving its software have exploited programs that were not updated with the latest security patches.
The Anonymous group is an amorphous collective that conducts multiple hacking campaigns at any time, some with a few participants and some with hundreds. In the past, its members have disrupted eBay's Inc PayPal after it stopped processing donations to the anti-secrecy site Wikileaks. Anonymous has also launched technically more sophisticated attacks against Sony Corp and security firm HBGary Federal.
Some of the breaches and pilfered data in the latest campaign had previously been publicized by people who identify with Anonymous, as part of what the group dubbed "Operation Last Resort."
Among other things, the campaigners said the operation was in retaliation for overzealous prosecution of hackers, including the lengthy penalties sought for Aaron Swartz, a well-known computer programmer and Internet activist who killed himself before a trial over charges that he illegally downloaded academic journal articles from a digital library known as JSTOR.
Despite the earlier disclosures, "the majority of the intrusions have not yet been made publicly known," the FBI wrote. "It is unknown exactly how many systems have been compromised, but it is a widespread problem that should be addressed."
I don't expect the governments or corporations to understand that THEY have given birth to this new platform of activism that is nothing more than a fight for the freedoms many military members have lived and died for.
They will continue to be loved, despised, hated, respected, feared, revered and respected. But what I doubt that they will do... is go away.
In Memory of Aaron Swartz:
Aaron Swartz, an early employee of Reddit, information freedom advocate, and Internet Hall of Fame inductee, was found dead earlier this year, after a period of over-the-top bullying from the federal government over some downloaded JSTOR documents. Now, after a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from Wired contributor Kevin Poulsen, many previously secret details about that investigation have become public knowledge. More detail on the charges and the controversy surrounding Swartz can be seen on one of my colleague's articles here.
Although only 104 pages out of the Secret Service's 14,500 pages of documents on Swartz have so far been released, and much of that content is redacted, some very interesting facts can still be extracted from the files. We can expect more releases periodically every 45 days or so.
This is, again, for downloading JSTOR files off of MIT computers, after JSTOR decided not to press charges. The level of extreme inconvenience caused to this man, eventually resulting in suicide, is mind-boggling.
Among the documents released are accounts of the several raids the federal government made on Swartz's property. In these accounts are pages upon pages of lists of all of the property the government confiscated from him. Pages worth of hard drives, phones, computers, iPods, and compact discs were seized.