LOWER EAST SIDE — Federal officials have busted an international hacking ring that claimed more than 1 million victims — with the help of its Lower East Side-based ring leader who reportedly agreed to work with the feds.
The hackers were part of the groups Anonymous and LulzSec and allegedly crashed or stole information from websites run by groups ranging from MasterCard to the United States Congress, along with the governments of Tunisia, Algeria and Yemen, the U.S. Attorney's office announced Tuesday.
They were toppled when the leader of LulzSec, Hector Xavier Monsegur, 28, of the Lower East Side, secretly began working with the FBI several months ago, FoxNews.com reported.
The suspected hackers "undertook a campaign of malicious cyber assaults on the websites and computer systems of various business and governmental entities in the United States and throughout the world," FBI officials said in a statement.
Monsegur, an unemployed father of two who lives in the Jacob Riis public housing complex and pleaded guilty to hacking charges in August, used his equipment-filled apartment as a command center for a team of thousands of hackers around the world, FoxNews.com reported.
After the FBI uncovered his identity in June, Monsegur began working with federal prosecutors to take the ring down from the inside. Monsegur's beat-up laptop — its left Shift, L and 7 keys missing — was turned over to the FBI, along with the codes needed to access his records, FoxNews.com reported.
The FBI announced charges Tuesday against five other suspects, including two people from Great Britain, two from Ireland and one from Chicago.
Monsegur, who also went by "Sabu" and "Leon," was influential in the hacking groups Anonymous, LulzSec and Internet Feds, according to court papers filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York. Some of the charges involve attacks between December 2010 and June 2011 against the websites of Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, which were done in apparent retaliation for the refusal of these companies to process donations to Wikileaks, according to the FBI.
Monsegur's specialty was identifying vulnerabilities of targeted computer systems, which he either passed on to other hackers or exploited himself, according to court papers.
Since at least 2008, Anonymous has been a loose confederation of computer hackers and others, according to the FBI. It is known for infiltrating computer systems to steal confidential information and has also attacked websites by bombarding them with information requests from users, causing them to crash.
Monsegur pleaded guilty August 15, 2011, to computer hacking, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Also facing hacking charges are: Jeremy ("Anarchaos") Hammond, 27, of Chicago; Ryan Ackroyd, 23, of Doncaster, England; Jake Davis, 29, of Lerwick, in the British Shetland Islands; Darren Martyn, 25, of Galway, Ireland; and Donncha O'Cearrbhail, 19, of Birr, Ireland.