EXCLUSIVE: It was one of the hottest days of the year and evening temperatures were still sweltering when two FBI agents wearing bulletproof vests under their dark suits climbed the stairs of the Jacob Riis housing complex in New York’s Lower East Side on June 7, 2011. Drenched in sweat, they knocked on the steel door of a sixth-floor unit. It swung open to reveal a man in his late twenties wearing jeans and a white T-shirt.
“I’m Hector,” he said.
The agents were suddenly face-to-face with “Sabu,” the computer genius they had stalked for months, a quarry so elusive they hadn’t pinned down his identity and location until just weeks before. The suspected ringleader of the Anonymous offshoot group LulzSec, Hector Xavier Monsegur and his web minions had just completed a month-long reign of terror, hacking the CIA, Fox, Sony and several financial institutions, causing, according to some estimates, billions of dollars in damage around the world.
The nondescript public housing unit seemed an unlikely nerve center for one of the world’s most wanted criminal masterminds, but the 28-year-old Monsegur himself is a study in such contradictions. An unemployed computer programmer, welfare recipient and legal guardian of two young children, Monsegur did not go to college and is a self-taught hacker. Although his skills and intellect could command a lucrative salary in the private sector, those who know him say he is lazy, an underachiever complacent with his lifestyle.
“He’s extremely intelligent,” a law enforcement official said. “Brilliant, but lazy.”
It was the laziness that got him.
Sabu had always been cautious, hiding his Internet protocol address through proxy servers. But then just once he slipped. He logged into an Internet relay chatroom from his own IP address without masking it. All it took was once. The feds had a fix on him.
For weeks they waited, watching him, monitoring the online activity of the man they believed was the leader of LulzSec.
But then, late in the evening of June 7, they received word that Sabu had been “doxed” — meaning that for a very brief moment, someone had posted Sabu’s real name and address online. Law enforcement feared Sabu would see he’d been outed and begin destroying evidence of his hacking career—and all traces of those he’d worked and communicated with online. They had to move.
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