The end does not justify the means and the law is harsh, but it is the law. These two premises have been reaffirmed as Jeremy Hammond of the hacktivist collective Anonymous was sentenced, Friday, to a 10-year imprisonment and three years of supervised released following a 2011 hacking incident of defense intelligence firm Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) that led to the confidential information of more than 860,000 employees being compromised.
The 28-year-old computer programmer from Chicago pleaded guilty to charges against him that violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act but he sees the punishment as a spiteful act to send a message to all hackers who are politically motivated. While the accused argued that he fought for a cause, Judge Loretta Preska of the New York district court that handled the case, thinks the acts were not for altruism as Hammond "hacked into websites he disagreed with politically."
"While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn't like," explained Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in an interview.
"His sentence underscores that computer hacking is a serious offense with damaging consequences for victims," Bharara added.
Hammond was able to get hold of data such as credit cards information of tens of thousands of people and later used these to donate around $700,000 to non-profit organizations. Included in the data looting were around five million e-mail message that were later posted to WikiLeaks. Hammond was also involved in cyberattacks against the FBI and other government agencies.
"They have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me. A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face," Hammond said.
"It is kind of funny that here they are sentencing me for hacking Stratfor, but at the same time as I was doing that an FBI informant was suggesting to me foreign targets to hit. So you have to wonder how much they really care about protecting the security of websites," Hammond added.
He also shared with the publication that he might have been manipulated by FBI to attack foreign governments through the direction of a certain person going by the pseudonym Sabu, the leader of the group Lulzsec. Sabu, later on identified as Puerto Rican Hector Xavier Monsegur from New York, was apparently working as an informant for the FBI. Monsegur is also awaiting sentencing for 12 charges related to computer hacking.
Hammond has been in custody since March 2012.