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Police have arrested several senior members of the LulzSec hackers collective, according to FBI sources.
Top members of the LulzSec hackers group were arrested in coordinated raids this morning, according to Fox News. FBI officials told the network that the collective's leader turned informant and supplied much of the evidence against his fellow hackers.
Of the five suspects, two are said to be British, two Irish and one American. Three have been arrested and two charged with conspiracy.
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Irish police confirmed to the Associated Press that they had arrested one of the suspects, who is being held at a police station in Dublin.
The bust is "devastating" to the group, one FBI official is quoted as saying. "We're chopping off the head of LulzSec."
Fox identified the leader of LulzSec, known online as "Sabu," as an unemployed, 28-year-old father of two named Hector Xavier Monsegur. He allegedly "commanded a loosely organized, international team of perhaps thousands of hackers from his nerve center in a public housing project on New York's Lower East Side."
Authorities reportedly unmasked him in June 2011, since when he has been working for them.
The others arrested, according to Fox, are: Ryan Ackroyd, aka "Kayla" and Jake Davis, aka "Topiary," both of Britain; Darren Martyn, aka "pwnsauce" and Donncha O'Cearrbhail, aka "palladium," both of Ireland; and Jeremy Hammond aka "Anarchaos," of Chicago.
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Details of the charges against them are expected to be released by a New York court today.
According to court papers seen by the AP, Monsegur pleased guilty in August to conspiracy to commit hacking and other crimes. As a member of LulzSec and two other hacking groups, Anonymous and Internet Feds, he apparently identified weaknesses in the systems of potential victims.
Those hit included the US Senate, the governments of Tunisia, Algeria, Yemen and Zimbabwe, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.
The Atlantic Wire was skeptical about the claims, pointing out that there have been several previous attempts to identify Sabu, all of which so far have failed. "It's possible that they did grab the wrong Sabu or that Sabu is actually the identify of several Anonymous affiliates," the news site suggested.
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However, one expert told the BBC that there had been a sudden burst of LulzSec-related activity this morning, with hackers posting personal information about the reported informant.
That suggests there is a "considerable rift inside these groups," according to Professor Alan Woodward of the University of Surrey. "The hackers are certainly acting as they feel they have been betrayed by one of their own."
LulzSec – short for Lulz Security – has officially been disbanded since June 2011. After carrying out high-profile attacks on Sony, Nintendo, Fox News, PBS and the CIA, among others, the group announced its retirement – due to "boredom," according to one supposed member.
Its larger affiliate, Anonymous, continued to operate since and says it will do so after these latest arrests: TG Daily reported that Anonymous associates responded to the bust by tweeting: "Don't you get it by now? #Anonymous is an idea. #Anonymous is a movement. It will keep growing, adapting and evolving, no matter what."
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