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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Training Officer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Training Officer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Specialist - Document Management

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A leading provider of document ...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary

£17000 - £17800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to work ...

Recruitment Genius: Ad Ops Manager - Up to £55K + great benefits

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a digital speci...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent