Anonymous Hacker Gets 10 Years in Jail, Blames Informant Sabu

Anonymous hacker Jeremy Hammond knew that he was going to serve serious time for his role in the 2011 hack of Stratfor Global Intelligence.

But holy crap, the judge threw the book at the guy! The 28-year-old Chicago native was just sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. For hacking.

Let's put that into perspective. Ten years is a very long time, more than a third of Hammond's entire life up to this point. That's nearly twice the amount of jail time that the infamous hacker Kevin Mitnick—who was the most-wanted computer criminal in the country at one point—served. As CNET's Declan McCullagh points out, it's also significantly more than the average prison time serves for murder, which is less than six years. All that time for a series of keystrokes.

Of course, hacking can be a very destructive act. Hackers can shut down power grids, send trains off their rails, and even bring the global financial systems to its knees. That's not what Hammond did, though. Hammond helped break into Stratfor's network and stole as much as 200 gigabytes of data, including email messages and credit card numbers. Some of that information was later released by WikiLeaks as the Global Intelligence Files, and the hackers reportedly used the credit cards to donate millions to charity, though that was never confirmed.

Hammond broke the law, and he pleaded guilty to one count under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Ten years is a pretty intense sentence, one that Hammond says is nothing but a "vengeful, spiteful act" designed to discourage more politically motivated hacking. In fact, he told The Guardian that would've happened if it hadn't been for Hector Xavier Monsegur (a.k.a. Sabu), who was working as an FBI informant at the time and gave Hammond the orders to do the hack.

"I had never heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought in another hacker who told me about it," Hammond told The Guardian a few hours before his sentencing. "Practically, I would never have done the Stratfor hack without Sabu's involvement." Asked how that made him feel, Hammond said, "I felt betrayed, obviously. Though I knew these things happen. What surprised me was that Sabu was involved in so much strategic targeting, in actually identifying targets. He gave me the information on targets."

The idea that the Stratfor hack was nothing but an FBI sting is not a new one. Not long after Sabu was arrested and then identified as an informant, the hacker community quickly came to the conclusion that some of the hacks he'd ordered were actually FBI operations, including some attacks on foreign governments. Sabu, meanwhile, has yet to be sentenced for the 12 hacking-related charges to which he's pleaded guilty.

It remains to be seen whether Hammond will become Anonymous's biggest scapegoat. But he sure will have plenty of time to think about it. [The Guardian]