The real Sabu

He was one of the world's foremost hackers...until he betrayed his friends to the FBI. Kevin Rawlinson recounts his personal interactions with Sabu.

“Message from Sabu”, said a small bubble in the bottom corner of the screen.

It sat there, flashing orange, indicating that the leader of LulzSec had finally responded to repeated attempts to make contact. In a rare interview with The Independent, he would threaten further hacking attacks, announce he would target journalists and media organisations and promise to expose those he denounced as “charlatans”.

It was late June 2011. Three weeks earlier, FBI agents had first knocked on Hector Xavier Monsegur’s door. Though nobody knew it at the time, he had already taken the first steps down the road which would eventually lead to the betrayal of some of those closest to him.

This week, it emerged that he later pleaded guilty to 12 charges of computer hacking and subsequently spent months secretly working for the FBI.

During the interview, he was curt and cagey – perhaps understandably. He seemed condescending towards anyone who was not a “hacktivist”, as well as to many who were. The resulting picture was of an intelligent man who also seemed vain. Other people using his favourite chatroom seemed in awe of him.

“Let me see your questions,” he fired back when the idea of an interview was first raised. Sabu was reluctant to get into an open conversation, saying: “We’re not talking over the phone.” Instead, he used the interview to insist he was not worried about repeated attempts by rival hackers to “dox” him – discover his real identity.

Asked if he was having sleepless nights over the issue, he was dismissive. “Not at all. they have hit me with 6 or 7 different identities. thats proof that I’m not worried,” he said.

That conversation, the first of a series, came the day after his hacking group LulzSec had announced its intention to disband. Monsegur alone knew what lay ahead. But he was doing a good job of covering it up. In the future, he said, “We’ll be focussing on corruption in governments and banks but will also be targeting journalists. the change is merely from lulz to more polotical. we’ll work in the same fashion...”

Monsegur formed LulzSec in May 2011. Within weeks he had become both the most recognisable name in the “hacktivism” movement – and later its most valuable FBI informant.

“He definitely had a fanbase,” said one hacker yesterday. “But it consisted mostly of people who don’t actually do much themselves. He was perceived as a ‘master hacker’, whether he was or not I don’t know, but that was probably what made him popular. That, and he adopted some of the same values as LulzSec; the ‘for the lulz [laughs]’ attitude.”

With the benefit of hindsight, there are those who have claimed they knew – or at least suspected – that Sabu had been turned. “He was not welcome here, we had suspicions about him. His behaviour changed, it seemed strange,” one hacker said yesterday.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project