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The rise, fall and legacy of the hacker group Lulzsec

Analysis How it all started and where it all went wrong
Mon Jul 04 2011, 15:53

HACKER GROUP Lulzsec has disbanded, but it won't be forgotten any time soon, and apparently there are others who are willing to take its place. But where did Lulzsec come from? What was its mission and what did it accomplish? And where did it all go wrong?

The Rise of Lulzsec
The origins of Lulzsec can be found in the hacking environment that existed before it. To understand how it came about we must look to hacktivist group Anonymous and how relatively easy it is to get involved in the hacking culture.

Anonymous rose to fame with the advent of the whistleblowing web site Wikileaks. As companies withdrew financial and hosting support for Wikileaks, the cries of censorship echoed across the internet. This led to hacking attacks on Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and a somewhat failed attack on Amazon, among others.

Anonymous led the way by putting forward the idea of hacking as a form of protest, the digital equivalent of picketing outside a store. This idea resonated with people who objected to government and corporate corruption, particularly in a time when many are still reeling from the global recession created largely by mismanagement by governments and the banking sector.

It is not surprising then that people would want to lash out at the establishment. While some protested in the traditional fashion, sometimes to the point of violence, others, usually the younger generation, saw the potential to make their voices heard online through hacking.

Some hacking skills are relatively easy to learn, and there are a number of software tools that prospective protestors can download for free to start them on their path, or help them join a larger throng.

These usually boil down to Distributed Denial of Serivce (DDoS) attacks, which are not technically hacks but rather a way of flooding a web site with illegitimate traffic. There are ways to defend against these attacks, often using scaling cloud technology to increase available bandwidth, but most web sites simply cannot handle the load of a massive DDoS attack any more than they can handle a sudden ten-fold or hundred-fold increase in peak traffic.

When people interested in hacking gather on hacking forums and 4chan and adopt their DDoS software, they can support hacker groups, such as Anonymous, or they take this strength and break off and form their own, such as in the case of Lulzsec, which might have splintered off from Anonymous in the first place.

The arrests of a number of Anonymous members resulted in the group briefly taking a back seat. Six arrests were made in the UK, the US arrested up to 40 individuals, Spain arrested three and Turkey arrested 32, all believed to be involved with Anonymous.

Things quietened down after these arrests, possibly because senior members had been caught, or possibly not. Whatever the reason, it left an opening in the hacker world for another group to take the reins - and so began the onslaught of Lulzsec.


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