Stratfor hacker Jeremy Hammond given 10 year sentence

Jeremy Hammond, the man responsible for the 2011 attack on Strategic Forecasting Inc., better known as Stratfor, pled guilty to his role in the attack and was sentenced on Friday to serve 10 years in federal prison. However, Hammond's supporters maintain that his sentencing, indeed the case itself, was unbalanced and rife with problems from the beginning.

In 2011, the AntiSec movement was resurrected in name. Those supporting AntiSec used its name to target governments, law enforcement, and the private businesses that associated with them. One such business was Strategic Forecasting Inc., better known as Stratfor, a firm in Austin, Texas that provides "geopolitical intelligence" to individuals and organizations across the globe. Earlier this past May, Jeremy Hammond admitted that he was responsible for the Stratfor incident as part of a plea agreement reached with the U.S. attorney's office.

In December of 2011, Hammond - encouraged by fellow-AntiSec supporter Hector Xavier Monsegur (a.k.a. Sabu), who was a cooperating witness for the FBI at the time - breached Stratfor's servers, by exploiting a vulnerability in the Plesk management system used to support the company's website.

Once access was granted, Hammond downloaded various archives containing poorly protected email addresses and passwords, and a backup copy of Stratfor's corporate email. Prior to Hammond's involvement, another person compromised Stratfor's credit card processing, and stole some 60,000 records. The breach was made public by AntiSec on December 24 of that year.

Hammond admitted that he shared the stolen Stratfor emails (amounting to some 5 million messages) with Wikileaks. However, in addition to the communications shared by Hammond, a list of 860,100 email addresses and passwords were leaked to the public. According to court filings, the 60,000 credit card records that were taken during the incident were used to run up "at least $700,000 worth of unauthorized charges," from December 6, 2011, until early February 2012.

As part of his plea, Hammond admitted to his role in the Stratfor incident in exchange for a reduced possible sentence from 12.5 to 15.5 years, to a single charge that carries a maximum of 10 years. Supporters for Hammond had encouraged the judge to be lenient, but instead U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska followed the recommendations of the prosecutors and sentenced him to the maximum term.

After he was fingered by FBI's witness (Monsegur), Hammond's supporters questioned the role the "snitch" played in the case, calling for investigations into the government's actions. In statements made by Hammond, which the court attempted to have redacted, but only after the information had leaked, Monsegur (allegedly on the FBI's behalf) encouraged Hammond to target various organizations and governments as part of the AntiSec movement.

Hammond says that Monsegur encouraged him to use his Plesk exploit, as well as his other skills, to target "numerous foreign government websites in Brazil, Turkey, Syria, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Nigeria, Iran, Slovenia, Greece, Pakistan, and others."

"All of this happened under the control and supervision of the FBI and can be easily confirmed by chat logs the government provided to us pursuant to the government's discovery obligations in the case against me. However, the full extent of the FBI's abuses remains hidden. Because I pled guilty, I do not have access to many documents that might have been provided to me in advance of trial, such as Sabu's communications with the FBI," Hammond wrote.

Adding additional fuel to the fire, Hammond supporters noted that Judge Preska is married to one of the Stratfor victims, but attempts to have her removed from the case by the defense were not successful. As to the claims that the FBI condoned the attack against Stratfor in order to build a case, as well as encouraged it and other like it, the Department of Justice has previously disputed those claims, and had nothing to say about it on the day Hammond was sentenced.

Detractors say that Hammond got what he deserved, and that his previous criminal convictions warranted his lengthy sentence. In fact, most of those speaking out against Hammond on Twitter simply point to existing law and leave it at that; "...if you don't want to spend 10 years in prison, don't break the law," one person remarked shortly after sentencing was announced.

However, for his part, Hammond knew his actions could, and in all likelihood would, earn him further time behind bars. That didn't deter him from his actions, just as his conviction will fail to deter others in the future.

"Yes I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change," Hammond told the court on Friday.

With credit for time served, as well as good behavior, Hammond could be released in September 2021.

Read more about data protection in CSOonline's Data Protection section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Hector Xavier MonsegurapplicationsLulzsecAntiSeclegalsoftwareJeremy HammondStrategic Forecasting Inc.Stratforfbidata protectioncybercrime

More about Department of JusticeFBIInc.indeed

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Steve Ragan

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place