The hacking group Lulz Security ended its 50-day reign of terror this weekend, but law enforcement's hunt for its members will go on. Last week, FBI agents raided an Iowa woman's home because of her connections to the group.
At about 11 am last Thursday, 29-year-old Laurelai Bailey heard a knock at her Davenport, Iowa home. She found around eight FBI agents swarming at her doorstep, search warrant in hand. But the agents politely "told me they weren't there to arrest me," Bailey tells us in an interview.
Instead, they had some questions about hackers Bailey had been hanging out with online. They told Bailey they were investigating a February attack against the security firm HBGary by an elite group of hackers associated with the hacktivist collective Anonymous. Those hackers would later break away from Anonymous to form Lulz Security, who attacked the FBI, PBS, and the CIA in a well-publicized spree before calling it quits this weekend amid increasing pressure and the arrest of a purported member in England.
Bailey's conversation with the feds lasted about five hours, during which she told them everything she knew. But Bailey says she knew nothing that anyone couldn't find out themselves, using leaked chat logs and Google. The feds also asked if she could infiltrate the group.
"They wanted to know if I could get close to them," Bailey says. "I told them these people hate me... it wouldn't do any good." Bailey says Lulz Security hackers hold a grudge against her for leaking logs from the secret chat room in which they planned the HBGary hack—which she says she did in retaliation for them harassing some of her friends. (We later published an article based on the logs.) When the interview was over, the agents carted off a couple of her hard drives, her camera and other computer equipment.
According to Bailey, the agents who interviewed her were specifically interested in a member of Lulz Security who goes by the handle "Kayla." "Anytime I mentioned her, they seemed particularly interested," Bailey says.
Little is known for sure about Kayla: She was instrumental in the HBGary attack and was a founding member of Lulz Security. She's claimed to be a 16-year-old girl, though rumors persist that she's actually a 20-something guy from New Jersey. Others speculate Kayla is Taiwanese, or actually a sockpuppet controlled by many different people. Her purported Twitter account is made up of infuriatingly opaque status updates about going partying and going on vacation. The most recent: "right gonna go get rdy bye twitter :-)".
Bailey says Kayla is "friendly" but mysterious, limiting their exchanges mostly to public tweets.
But Bailey insists she was never a member of LulzSec, nor has she ever engaged in illegal hacking. In the chat logs she leaked, she is seen chatting freely with the hackers as the HBGary hack unfolded, offering advice, kibitzing—even giving suggestions for a logo. But she says she became close to the hackers through her involvement with Crowdleaks, a Wikileaks-focused news website. She claims she was in the room during the HBGary hack simply acting as a reporter for Crowdleaks.
Although she's not worried about getting in trouble with the law, the raid has already screwed up her life in another way. After she chatted with a friend online about the raid last week, the record of their chat was leaked in a document which portrayed her as a member of LulzSec "snitching" on her fellow hackers. The document included her real name and contact information, and the association with Lulz Security caused her to lose her job in tech support.
"They fired me… because I was apparently making the company look bad," Bailey said.
The raid of what appears to be an insignificant figure in the Lulz Security universe offers a glimpse into how the authorities are going about catching the notorious hackers. It's not just complicated computer forensics, which will likely lead to dead ends if the hackers were smart enough to cover their tracks. Everyone LulzSec hackers have come into contact with over their entire hacking careers will be swept up in the investigation. Though Bailey said she had no smoking gun to offer the feds, someone might.
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