'Hacktivists' disband as police turn up heat on cyber crime
THE infamous 'hacktivist' group LulzSec has announced that it is disbanding after just 50 days of generating worldwide headlines with a string of cyber attacks.
The move comes amid growing international police investigations into the hackers' activities and was announced hours after rivals claimed to have unmasked its leaders.
Over the past two months LulzSec has been responsible for a string of disruptive attacks on a host of websites, including the CIA, Nintendo, Sony Pictures and the Arizona Police Department.
The group started off claiming its hacks were done purely for fun and to highlight poor cyber security. But in recent weeks it became increasingly political, targeting a slew of government websites and announcing an alliance with its one-time rival hacker group Anonymous.
In a final hurrah LulzSec posted its last information dump -- a cache of hacked data from a variety of organisations including names, emails and passwords of thousands of online gamers.
The cache, posted online, also included internal documents from US mobile network operator AT&T.
In a resignation statement peppered with its trademark nautical references, LulzSec made no mention of why it was disbanding.
"Our planned 50-day cruise has expired," the statement, posted through LulzSec's official Twitter page, read.
"We must now sail into the distance, leaving behind -- we hope -- inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere."
The announcement came as a surprise to many online followers. Only last week LulzSec was boasting that it intended to publish details of new hacks today, and follow up with further releases every subsequent Friday.
Rival hackers and commentators believe the group's leaders may have decided to go to ground fearing law enforcement agents were closing in.
"Inevitably there will be speculation that the reason for LulzSec's apparent disbandment could be that they are worried that they have brought too much attention to themselves," Graham Cluley, a cyber security expert at Sophos, said.
"The temptation for someone connected with the group to blab about their involvement may be too great, and the chances of a member of LulzSec being careless and unwittingly failing to cover their tracks could be too big a risk to take."
Over the weekend a string of rival hackers posted their own document dumps detailing who they believed to be some of LulzSec's key leaders. Those named as members were said to be from the US, Sweden and Britain.
One group, calling itself the A-Team, posted what it claimed was a full list of member details including logs from online chat conversations and offered to hand them over to the FBI.
The A-Team said LulzSec members felt they were protected by a "culture built around the anonymity of the internet".
But they added: "The internet by definition is not anonymous. Computers have to have attribution. If you trace something back far enough you can find its origins."
Although LulzSec generated unprecedented media coverage for the cyber assaults, it was criticised by the underground hacking scene, who wrote its work off as comparatively simple hacking and disruption techniques using other hackers' coding.
In its parting statement, LulzSec called on supporters to throw their weight behind Anonymous, the much larger hacktivist network where many of the LulzSec leaders used to operate, and the so-called Anti-Sec movement -- a term used by hactivists to describe their anti-government, anti-authoritarian cyber protests.