This next post I want to focus on more mistakes that other hacktivists and freedom fighters have made which ultimately led to their arrests. This is more proof that you only need to screw up once.
You have probably heard me talk about somebody named Sabu multiple times and maybe you are new to the online communities and you have no idea who I am talking about. Sabu was the leader of a self proclaimed hacktivist group called LulzSec. They were responsible for taking advantage of security exploits in online servers and posting the information online on a website called PasteBin. They had done this many times.
The men have been charged with hacking Fox Broadcasting Company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the Public Broadcasting Service (aka PBS).
During the time all this was happening, the members of this group maintained an online Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel in which they regularly discussed and took credit for their attacks and exploits. The agreed upon ring leader for these attacks, and this group went by the online handle Sabu. Sabu had also been linked to selling stolen credit cards on Facebook through his online handle, not his real one, which carries a charge of aggravated identity theft.
The group had leaked identities of law enforcement, Sony users, and all wreaked all types of havoc online including DDos attacks on the CIA. The FBI wanted Sabu, they wanted the ring leader, who would eventually be facing charges that could lead to 112 years in prison. But as I mentioned in previous threads, it only takes one mistake to get caught. That is all they need.
Sabu had always been cautious, hiding his Internet protocol address through proxy servers. But then just once he slipped. He logged into an Internet relay chatroom from his own IP address without masking it. All it took was once. The feds had a fix on him.
However, this was not his first actual slip up, but it was his first slip up where the feds actually discovered his mistake. His identity was actually discovered, or “doxed” previously by another online hacking group called Backtrace who posted his identity and general location online weeks prior to this in an attempt to dox members of LulzSec.
Sabu occasionally mentioned ownership of a domain called prvt.org in his chats, including those in Backtrace’s “consequences” document. Every domain registration is associated with corresponding information in the WHOIS database. This information is supposed to include the name and address of the domain’s owner.
Often this information is incorrect (most domain registrars do nothing to validate it) or anonymized (many firms offer “proxy” domain registration, so the WHOIS database contains the details of the proxy registrar, rather than the person using the domain). Monsegur appeared to use one of these anonymizing services, Go Daddy subsidiary Domains By Proxy, for registering the prvt.org domain.
The registration for the domain was due to expire on June 25, 2011, requiring Monsegur to renew it. But for some reason—error on Monsegur’s part perhaps, or screw-up by the registrar—the renewal was processed not by Domains By Proxy but by its parent, Go Daddy. Unlike Domains By Proxy, Go Daddy uses real information when it updates the WHOIS database, so on 24th June (the day before it was due to expire), Monsegur’s name, address, and telephone number were all publicly attached to his domain name.
Monsegur quickly remedied the mistake, changing the WHOIS registration to use various other identities—first to that of Adrian Lamo (who reported Bradley Manning to authorities) and then to “Rafael Lima” and subsequently to “Christian Biermann”. This attempt to mislead those relying on the WHOIS information successfully misled some would-be doxers. But not all: by August there were extensive dossiers on Sabu’s true identity.
Two mistakes that we know of, is all that it took to bring down at one time, the World’s Most Wanted Hacker. If you are familiar with the story of LulzSec, there was a time they were receiving mainstream news coverage and Sabu had gained a reputation of being this mystical untouchable hacker. Unfortunately for him, he made two small yet very costly mistakes which ended up putting him away. But we are not done yet on this story about Sabu.
Sabu had a weakness, that the feds used as leverage against him when he got busted.
An unemployed computer programmer, welfare recipient and legal guardian of two young children.
“It was because of his kids,” one of the two agents recalled. “He’d do anything for his kids. He didn’t want to go away to prison and leave them. That’s how we got him.”
Monsegur was quietly arrested on aggravated identity theft charges and released on bail. On Aug. 15 he pleaded guilty to a dozen counts of hacking-related charges and agreed to cooperate with the FBI.
So when you are doing your freedom fighting online, you need to ask yourself. What do I have to lose? Do I have a wife? Children? What would happen if I were to lose everything and be thrown away for 10 to 20 years, could I handle that? If you decide that you are willing to risk all that, then you again need to learn from the mistakes of those who have fallen before you. Ask yourself, if put in a hard place, where you had to choose between life in prison, and cooperation, in order to see your own family, you may think you will not talk now, but you may start talking when the feds are threatening to take them away from you forever.
Once the FBI had the leader of the group LulzSec working for them, they wasted little time getting the former hacker to turn on his friends and aid in their arrests.
Continued next post.