Just one time.
After being cautious about covering his tracks, all it took was one time logging into IRC without masking his IP address for the FBI to find where Hector Xavier Monsegur was. Monsegur, also known as Anonymous and LulzSec member Sabu, had been stalked by Federal agents with no success since the public emergence of LulzSec last spring. After a clichéd good cop/bad cop routine like we're all used to seeing on television crime drama, Monsegur finally gave in, leaving under the custody of Federal agents.
That was last summer, after a month-long hack-a-thon that brought down security at a number of organizations in the financial sector, entertainment companies like Fox and Sony, and Federal Government agencies including the CIA. Eventually in August Monsegur pled guilty to 12 counts of computer hacking and conspiracy, as well as charges filed in connection with the hacks at HBGary Federal, Fox Broadcasting, Infragard Members Alliance, and PBS.
The guilty pleas of not only Monsegur but five other hackers were released today in a press release by the FBI, citing over one million victims and additional hacks against Stratfor and International Law Enforcement.
Monsegur's cooperation led to the arrests of the other hackers named in the FBI press release – hackers known as Topiary, Kayla, Pwnsauce, Palladim, lolspoon, and Anarchaos were also charged. After over a year of chasing their tails, this arrest was a tremendous victory for the FBI, who were under a great deal of pressure to find the perpetrators, themselves still nursing a black eye from multiple hacking operations. According to Fox News, they had already subpoenaed Monsegur's Facebook account, found stolen credit card numbers, and had enough to charge him with aggravated identity theft, carrying a two-year sentence if he were convicted. The FBI saw more value in him as an informant with his ties to LulzSec, so they dug in. "They did a heck of a job in hunting down the ringleader and turning him around so they could go deeper into the stack," said Rich Mogull, an analyst at Securoris. "This is classic law enforcement."