Hacker Hector Xavier Monsegur, a.k.a "Sabu," has escaped time behind bars after turning informant for U.S. authorities in the fight against cybercrime.
Arrested in 2011 for hacking crimes which occurred while he was 'leader' of the Lulzsec hacking group, Monsegur was facing up to 26 years in prison for his role in cyberattacks against high-profile targets. After being arrested, Monsegur agreed to work with U.S. law enforcement agencies, operating as a mole and preventing upwards of 300 attacks over three years.
In addition, working under the FBI's supervision, Monsegur identified a number of other hackers within the community, as reported by the BBC. As a result of his co-operation, a number of high-profile figures in both Lulzsec and Anonymous were arrested.
Lulzsec, closed in 2011, was an offshoot group of the Anonymous hacktivist movement, which still operates today. Monsegur was considered a "leader" figure within Lulzsec, which most notably took responsibility for stealing 24.6 million customers' account data from the Sony PlayStation Network, attacked gaming companies including Nintendo, news websites, Fox and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in attacks that cost companies millions in damages.
Monsegur worked with the FBI for several years, and served a total of seven months in jail while awaiting trial. Judge Loretta Preska, overseeing the case, said that a number of cyberattacks had been prevented, and praised his cooperation as "truly extraordinary."
The Guardian reports that Monsegur claimed in court, "I am not the same person I was three years ago. I've come a long way. I’ve had to do a lot of thinking and soul-searching." In return, Preska told the court that Monsegur provided "sophisticated and complex assistance to the government allowing them to pierce the secrecy surrounding LulzSec and successfully prosecute its members."
The judge sentenced the hacker turned information to seven months -- already served -- and a year's supervision, taking in to account his stint with the FBI and threats made against Monsegur due to his decision to assist law enforcement.
The same judge sentenced Jeremy Hammond, one of the most high-profile hackers brought in due to Monsegur, to ten years for his role in for hacking intelligence firm Stratfor and releasing the data through whistleblower website WikiLeaks.
In this manner, the lenient sentence may not be surprise, as law enforcement agencies are unlikely to want to discourage future informants -- especially considering how far behind corporations and government bodies seem to be in the realm of cybersecurity.
The hacking community have not reacted well to the sentence, and some have branded him a "snitch" and "betrayer" on social media. An Anonymous spokesperson said:
"Monsegur is, first and foremost, a criminal; the FBI's cyber crime task force are his co-conspirators. While operating under their supervision, Monsegur committed numerous felonies which should in no way be excused due to his protected informant status."