Hacktivist pleads guilty to charges

After being charged with orchestrating a data security breach affecting government agencies and contractors, a Chicago-based hacktivist pleaded guilty this week. The Associated Press reported that Jeremy Hammond confirmed in federal court that he took confidential information from computer systems used by those entities, adding that he knew what he was doing was against the law at the time.

These cyberattacks were carried out by Hammond in affiliation with Anonymous, a notorious global hacking group that looks to steal information, harass businesses and deface websites standing in opposition to its expressed ideals. The news source said Hector Xavier Monsegur, a famous hacker known as Sabu, helped law enforcement catch Hammond and infiltrate Anonymous.

As part of these crimes, Hammond allegedly stole data from more than 850,000 people in his attack on Stratfor. He also was accused of using credit card numbers from this company for upwards of $700,000 in illicit purchases and apparently even stole personal data from a former CIA director and vice president of the United States.

There are supporters of the hacktivist as well, according to the AP, as several sympathetic blogs and websites describe him as an "electronic Robin Hood." Hammond will be sentenced later this year and faces up to a decade in jail.

The Chicago Reader previously wrote a profile of Hammond, who had discussed a point where he felt he was discouraged from becoming a white hat hacker for the good of data security rather than for his own cause. During his freshman year at the University of Illinois, he found a flaw in the school's security system.

"I had found this vulnerability, and I had notified them," Hammond told the Chicago alternative weekly. "'Here's how it's vulnerable, here's how you go about fixing it, here's where I put the back door. You guys can talk with me, and maybe I can work with the webmaster.' They didn't take too kindly to that at all. In fact I was called before the department chair. He said they almost went to the FBI. I'm pretty sure the guy who developed the website, one of the professors there, took it personally. This was a slap in the face. Some punk kid was able to get into the site. So they disciplined me instead of hiring me."

Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro

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