LulzSec hackers not "anonymous today," says official

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(CBS News) Court papers detailing the charges filed against hacking group LulzSec were released Tuesday.

The documents reveal names of five alleged conspirators charged with crimes including computer hacking, conspiracy to engage in computer hacking and conspiracy to commit access device fraud.

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Additionally, the alleged leader of the hacking group, Hector Xavier Monsegur a.k.a. "sabu," was charged with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, among other offenses. Authorities say Monsegur, free on $50,000 bail, pleaded guilty Aug. 15. Monsegur has been cooperating with authorities since his arrest in June, apparently leading to the additional arrests.

A law enforcement official during a briefing Tuesday said the defendants "are some of the most sophisticated criminal hackers in the world" hacking into some of the most powerful government, business and non profit organizations from Algeria, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Ireland to the United States with more than one million victims. "It is rare" to have a criminal organization that can victimize more than one million people, the official said.

The defendants were called "core members" of LulzSec, affiliated with the underground group Anonymous, a loose confederation of computer hackers.

A law enforcement official noted that Lulz is Internet slang for laughing or amusement; that the group in its name was laughing at security.

The official said that one of the accused, Donncha O'Cearrbhail (a.k.a. "palladium"), is charged with accessing and then recording a Jan. 17 international law enforcement conference call. O'Cearrbhail then allegedly disseminated the illegally obtained recordings of officials, which amounts to wiretapping. The official said he "bragged about how he affected the Feds' ability to cooperate around the world."

"Well, he was dead wrong," the official said.

The defendants were referred to as "high level" hackers who are accused of, among other crimes, denial of service attacks (overloading a website and causing it to stop functioning) and of using confidential information obtained via hacking, including credit cards, social security numbers, dates of birth, etc., to take money out of victim's bank accounts. "They are violating people's privacy and blasting people's private information onto the internet," the official said.

"These cyber criminals are affiliated with Anonymous. They are not anonymous today. They have been identified and charged," the official said. "Cyber crime is one of the gravest threats facing our country. Law enforcement is attacking it whether in the United States or abroad. We won't let them hide."

The investigation began in June 2011 acting on a tip received by the FBI. The cyber investigations have reportedly incorporated many methods the hackers use.

The arrests were the result of an investigation by the FBI and international partners in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

  • Pat Milton

    Pat Milton is a CBS News investigative producer