Accused LulzSec Hacker Could Face Life Imprisonment
Judge calls alleged Stratfor data breach mastermind 'flight risk,' denies bail; defense attorney suggests FBI entrapment.
Accused LulzSec participant Jeremy Hammond faces a potential prison sentence of more than 30 years if found guilty of all charges filed against him.
That warning was made last week by U.S. District Court chief judge Loretta Preska, who presided over a bail hearing for Hammond.
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In early May 2012, a federal grand jury handed down a superseding indictment in the case against alleged LulzSec and Anonymous leaders, accusing Hammond of masterminding the LulzSec and Anonymous attacks against the website of Stratfor (a.k.a. Strategic Forecasting), beginning in December 2011. Hammond (a.k.a. Anarchaos, burn, POW, ghost, and anarchaker) was also charged with using some of the stolen credit card data to help make $700,000 in unauthorized charges, and accused of participating in a hack of the Arizona Department of Public Safety website.
In May 2012, Hammond entered a not guilty plea to all of the charges filed against him.
[ In the heat of the crisis in Gaza, Anonymous launches DDoS attacks against Israeli websites. See Anonymous Steps Into Gaza Crisis. ]
The Stratfor breach led to the disclosure of information on 860,000 of the company's clients, including the release of 5 million emails by WikiLeaks, as part of its Global Intelligence Files project. Stratfor ultimately offered about $1.75 million -- in the form of free subscriptions and e-books -- to settle several consolidated class action lawsuits filed in the wake of the breach.
At last week's hearing in a Southern District of New York federal courtroom, Hammond's defense attorney, Elizabeth Fink, suggested that the FBI may have used entrapment to catch her client, reported Courthouse News Service. That led Judge Preska to tell Fink that she should "feel free" to use entrapment as a defense, but that it had no bearing on Hammond's bail hearing. She ruled that with Hammond exhibiting a "lack of regard for legal authority" and facing a prison sentence of between 30 years and life imprisonment, the alleged hacktivist would be a flight risk. Accordingly, Preska denied Hammond's request for bail.
Shortly thereafter, a Pastebin post attributed to Anonymous has argued that Judge Preska should recuse herself from the case, on the grounds that her spouse, attorney Thomas J. Kavaler, was himself affected by the Stratfor data breach. According to information released in the Stratfor breach, Kavaler may have been a Stratfor customer.
How might an entrapment defense for Hammond proceed? At the time that Hammond allegedly hacked into Stratfor and sent the data to LulzSec leader Sabu -- whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur -- Sabu was already an FBI informant, and his activities were reportedly being monitored by agents around the clock. Interestingly, Sabu turned FBI informant after his arrest on June 7, 2011, but then launched the group known as AntiSec, before announcing that LulzSec was retiring. In other words, the bureau appeared to keep Sabu's hacktivist campaigns running, to see who else they could catch.
This isn't the only U.S. case being made against alleged LulzSec members, apparently with the help of Sabu. Cody Kretsinger (aka Recursion) was arrested in September 2011 on charges of participating in a SQL injection attack against the Sony Pictures Entertainment website, then posting 150,000 stolen usernames and passwords to the LulzSec website and Twitter channels. After initially entering a not guilty plea, Kretsinger pled guilty to the charges, and was originally due to be sentenced last month, but that sentencing hearing has been postponed to March 7, 2013.
Meanwhile, LulzSec hacker Raynaldo Rivera pled guilty last month to one of two charges against him, both of which related to an attack against the website of Sony Pictures Entertainment. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop the other charge against Rivera and to reduce the maximum jail time he faces to five years. Rivera has also agreed to pay restitution to Sony.
Benchmarking normal activity and then monitoring for users who stray from that norm is an essential strategy for getting ahead of potential data and system breaches. But choosing the right tools is only part of the effort. Without sufficient training, efficient deployment and a good response plan, attackers could gain the upper hand. Download our Fundamentals Of User Activity Monitoring report. (Free registration required.)