A flag for the Anonymous hackers group.

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Most recently, the loose confederation known as “Anonymous” has made waves for defacing and hacking websites ranging from the Boston Police Department to Paypal.

To track down hackers across the U.S. and globally, law enforcement efforts focused on one informant who would help catch the group of “politically inspired hacktivists,” the New York Times reported.

The informant’s aid helped charge four men in Britain and Ireland with computer crimes yesterday. In Chicago on Monday, the FBI arrested 27-year-old Jeremy Hammond in relation to a breach of Stratfor, a global intelligence provider. He hacked into Stratfor, allegedly stole credit card information, and accumulated $700,000 worth in charges, the New York Times said.

Two others, Darren Martyn, 25, also known as “Pwnsauce,” and Donncha O’Cearrbhail, 19, known as “Palladium” were also charged in New York, according to the New York Times.

Law enforcement members have reason to suspect a possible association of the prosecuted hackers with the Anonymous movement. Interpol recently announced 25 arrests of people suspected for being Anonymous members, the New York Times reported.

Serving as the informant, 28-year-old New Yorker Hector Xavier Monsegur – -known for his Twitter alias “The Real Sabu” — is a former hacker who pleaded guilty to counts of conspiracy in attacking computers last August.

Since his court appearance, Monsegur continued to spur on followers — and potential hackers — to instigate computer attacks on companies and government agencies, the New York Times reported. He also suggested his followers attack Interpol’s websites following the arrests of the potential Anonymous members.

One of his tweets suggested the federal government consists of “cowards,” and he urged his followers, “Don’t give into these people. Fight back. Stay Strong.”

According to the New York Times, the informant’s ability to hack and simultaneously “deceive fellow hackers” could “sow even more distrust in the ranks of Anonymous.”

“It is going to be very difficult for Anonymous to recover from such a breach of trust,’’ said Mikko Hypponen, a security researcher at F-Secure Labs in Helsinki, in an interview with the New York Times. “You can see the Anonymous people now looking left and right and realizing, if they couldn’t trust Sabu, who can they trust?’’

Anonymous has been known for its methods that aim to “slow or shut down sites,” or to “break into computer systems and expose embarrassing communications,” the New York Times noted. Other Anonymous hacking victims have been Fox News, Sony, and the FBI.

About The Author

Nicolette Orlemans is a Blast correspondent. She is a multilingual, multimedia journalist from the Netherlands. Nicolette writes for a Boston-based weekly focused on the New England property-casualty insurance industry.

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