Analysis: a case of government versus hacktivism

By Danny Palmer
11 Dec 2012 View Comments
Jeremy Hammond

Alleged computer hacker and Anonymous member Jeremy Hammond is currently being held indefinitely in custody, suspected by the FBI of being one of the key members behind the security breach of private intelligence firm Stratfor.

Further reading

Hammond is accused of stealing the personal details of over 850,000 people from the firm - published by WikiLeaks as “Global Intelligence Files” following the Anonymous attack - in addition to taking credit card details and using them to donate to charities.

Hammond was arrested by FBI agents in March after Lulzsec founder Hector Xavier Monsegur, better known as Sabu, turned informant. He co-operated with the authorities following his own arrest in March 2011. Sabu continued to encourage cyber-attacks against corporations, all the while providing the FBI with chat-logs and other details that enabled the arrest of Hammond, who has been detained ever since.

According to criminal law attorney Jay Leiderman of Californian firm Leiderman Devine, a firm that has represented Anonymous members in computer hacking cases, the authorities could have prevented the December 2011 Stratfor breach.

“The FBI was kind of part and parcel to this hack, they knew about it [through Sabu], they had to have known about it beforehand. They didn’t do anything to warn Stratfor or to take pains to stop it,” Leiderman told Computing. He argued that the attack was not like breaking and entering, but rather going through an open door.

“Hack has become a sort of all-encompassing term, when in fact some of this was social engineering, some of this was good old-fashioned regular ‘there’s a hole, I’m going to walk through it’,” said Leiderman.

“If you left your front door open people wouldn’t really call it a break-in. To some extent Stratfor were unsecure to the point where it was like their front door was open and Mr Hammond allegedly, with some others, walked right in, and people are calling it a hack.

“As far as I’m aware, nothing was really hacked in the classic sense,” he added.

Leiderman believes the breach has deservedly damaged Stratfor’s reputation, especially given the organisation’s field.

“This is supposed to be a private security firm,” he said. “I think their reputation is ruined by this and one would have to query, philosophically, was it righteously, justly ruined because of their lax security.”



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