Hector Monsegur

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Hector Xavier Monsegur
Born1983 (age 40–41)
Other namesSabu
Known forFounder of LulzSec

Hector Xavier Monsegur (born 1983),[1] known also by the online pseudonym Sabu (pronounced Sə'buː, Sæ'buː),[2] is an American computer hacker and co-founder of the hacking group LulzSec.[3] Monsegur became an informant for the FBI, working with the agency for over ten months to aid them in identifying the other hackers from LulzSec and related groups while facing a sentence of 124 years in prison.[4][5] LulzSec intervened in the affairs of organizations such as News Corporation, Stratfor, UK and American law enforcement bodies and Irish political party Fine Gael.[6]

Sabu featured prominently in the group's published IRC chats,[7][8] and claimed to support the "Free Topiary" campaign. The Economist referred to Sabu as one of LulzSec's six core members.[9]

Early life, family and formal education[edit]

Hector Monsegur was born in New York to a 16-year-old father who raised him with his 40-year-old grandmother. Following the arrest of his father and his aunt for selling heroin, Monsegur moved to the Riis Houses (also known as the projects) in New York City with his grandmother.[10][11]

At a young age, Monsegur became interested in computers.

While attending Washington Irving High School, Monsegur was reprimanded by a security guard for bringing a screwdriver to school to help fix their computer system. Feeling insulted, he sent several complaints to the school administration. His complaints were deemed "threatening," and he was expelled. After this incident, he discontinued his formal education.[1][10][12]

Hacking career[edit]

An early experience with hacking was at age 14 when a Puerto Rican person was accidentally killed by the Marine Corps when they started bombing outside the test range on the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico. In response, Monsegur defaced various websites with messages protesting the US government's treatment of Puerto Ricans. On one site he included the line "Hello, I am Sabu, no one special for now."[10]

In 2010, following the death of his grandmother, he became the foster parent to his two female cousins whom he was unable to support financially, so he began hacking. Committing mostly credit card fraud, he targeted large corporate bank accounts. Although he was at first only interested in hacking for profit, over time he became interested in hacktivism, and this renewed interest coincided with the rise of the political hacker group Anonymous, which he joined under the moniker "Sabu". Although Anonymous does not have any formal leadership structure, the direction of the collective tended to be steered by a small number of members with a high amount of technical skill and domineering personalities. Sabu quickly established himself as one of these members. He became both a well-known individual within the community and a name often associated with Anonymous by the media.[10][12]

Sabu became the leader of a new hacking group formed by six Anonymous members. This new group was named Lulz Security (often abbreviated as LulzSec). LulzSec performed some hacks with political motives, but most of the hacks done by LulzSec were primarily motivated by a style of humor that they described as "the lulz". LulzSec was only active during a period that they referred to as the "50 days of lulz". In this time, their targets included News Corporation, Sony, and the CIA's official website.[13][14]

Sabu was identified by rival hacker group Backtrace Security as "Hector Montsegur" [sic] on March 11, 2011, in "Namshub," a PDF publication (named after the Sumerian word for "incantation").[15][16] Backtrace Security was a group of ex-Anonymous members who had grown critical of vigilante hacktivism. One member of the group explained their motives by stating, "One cannot fight for justice and democracy by using unjust, anti-democratic tactics."[17][18] Backtrace Security had found his identity through an IRC chatlog in which Sabu accidentally posted a link to his personal website.[12]

Author and anthropologist Gabriella Coleman met Monsegur during the Occupy Wall Street protest in October 2011. Describing him, she wrote "[He was a] wiry, yet, muscular, Latino man... many locals knew Sabu and treated him with deference-out of respect or fear, I can't say which."[12]

Arrest and guilty plea[edit]

Federal agents arrested Monsegur on June 7, 2011. The following day, Monsegur agreed to become an informant for the FBI and to continue his "Sabu" persona.[19] "Since literally the day he was arrested, the defendant has been cooperating with the government proactively," sometimes staying up all night engaging in conversations with co-conspirators to help the government build cases against them, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Pastore said at a secret bail hearing on August 5, 2011.[19] A few days after that bail hearing, Monsegur entered a guilty plea to 12 criminal charges, including multiple counts of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, computer hacking in furtherance of fraud, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft. He faced up to 124 years in prison.[19]

Activity as an informant for the FBI[edit]

As an informant, Monsegur provided the FBI with details enabling the arrest of five other hackers associated with the groups Anonymous, LulzSec and AntiSec.[20][21] The FBI provided its own servers for the hacking to take place.[20] Information Monsegur provided also resulted in the arrest of two UK hackers: James Jeffery and Ryan Cleary.[22] The FBI attempted to use Monsegur to entrap Nadim Kobeissi, author of the secure communication software Cryptocat, but without success.[23]

Monsegur maintained his pretense until March 6, 2012, even tweeting his "opposition" to the federal government until the very last minute.[20] On March 6, 2012, the FBI announced the arrests of five male suspects: two from Britain, two from Ireland and one from the U.S. Anonymous reacted to Sabu's unmasking and betrayal of LulzSec on Twitter, "#Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back".[24]

A court filing made by prosecutors in late May 2014 revealed Monsegur had prevented 300 cyber attacks in the three years since 2011, including planned attacks on NASA, the U.S. military and media companies.[25]

Monsegur served 7 months in prison after his arrest but had been free since then while awaiting sentencing. At his sentencing on May 27, 2014, he was given "time served" for co-operating with the FBI and set free under one year of probation.[26]

Post-prison career[edit]

After his release from prison, Monsegur worked as a white hat hacker doing pentesting.[27]


  1. ^ a b Kleinfield, N. R.; Sengupta, Somini (March 8, 2012). "Hacker, Informant and Party Boy of the Projects". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Biddle, Sam (March 6, 2012). "LulzSec Leader Betrays All of Anonymous". Gizmodo.
  3. ^ Olson, Parmy (2012). We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency. Little, Brown. p. 248. ISBN 978-0-316-21354-7.
  4. ^ "Why do US judges give such long prison sentences?". TheGuardian.com. March 7, 2012.
  5. ^ "'Lulzsec hackers' arrested in international swoop". BBC News. March 6, 2012.
  6. ^ Arthur, Charles; Sabbagh, Dan; Laville, Sandra (March 7, 2012). "LulzSec leader Sabu was working for us, says FBI". The Guardian.
  7. ^ Arthur, Charles; Gallagher, Ryan (June 24, 2011). "LulzSec IRC leak: the full record". The Guardian.
  8. ^ Cook, John; Chen, Adrian (March 18, 2011). "Inside Anonymous' Secret War Room". Gawker.com. Archived from the original on August 14, 2011.
  9. ^ "Cybercrime: Black hats, grey hairs". The Economist. August 3, 2011.
  10. ^ a b c d Fishman, Steve (June 11, 2018). "Hello, I Am Sabu ..." New York. p. 3. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
  11. ^ Sengupta, Somini (March 7, 2012). "Arrests Sow Mistrust Inside a Clan of Hackers". The New York Times.
  12. ^ a b c d Coleman, E. Gabriella (2015). Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy: the many faces of Anonymous. Politics (First published in paperback ed.). London, New York: Verso. ISBN 978-1-78168-983-7.
  13. ^ Weisenthal, Joe. "Notorious Hacker Group LulzSec Just Announced That It's Finished". Business Insider. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  14. ^ "LulzSec hackers claim CIA website shutdown". BBC.com. June 16, 2011. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  15. ^ Roberts, Paul (March 7, 2012). "Chats, Car Crushes and Cut 'N Paste Sowed Seeds Of LulzSec's Demise". Threatpost.com. Retrieved January 9, 2014.
  16. ^ "Splinter Group Says Document Outs Anonymous Members". threatpost.com. Retrieved December 19, 2022.
  17. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Ex-Anonymous Hackers Plan To Out Group's Members". Forbes. Retrieved June 19, 2023.
  18. ^ "Backtrace Security". Federal Bureau of Investigation. October 3, 2011 – via archive.org.
  19. ^ a b c Bray, Chad (March 9, 2012). "FBI's 'Sabu' Hacker Was a Model Informant". The Wall Street Journal.
  20. ^ a b c Ball, James (March 6, 2012). "LulzSec court papers reveal extensive FBI co-operation with hackers". The Guardian.
  21. ^ Bonderud, Douglas (March 15, 2012). "Former Lulzsec Headman Turns Informant To Help Bust Bad Guys". Infoboom. Archived from the original on March 17, 2012.
  22. ^ Thomson, Iain (August 23, 2012). "LulzSec sneak Sabu buys six more months of freedom". The Register.
  23. ^ Sengupta, Somini (March 12, 2012). "A Hacker Charms and Disappoints". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Covert, Adrian (March 6, 2012). "Anonymous Reacts to Sabu's Betrayal of LulzSec". Gizmodo.
  25. ^ "LulzSec hacker helped FBI stop over 300 cyber attacks". Big News Network. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
  26. ^ Neumeister, Larry (May 27, 2014). "Hacker who helped feds gets no more time in prison". Yahoo News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on May 27, 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  27. ^ Greenberg, Andy. "Anonymous' Most Notorious Hacker Is Back, and He's Gone Legit". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved March 20, 2022.