Leader of hacking group LulzSec was working with the FBI

International swoop sees 5 people arrested, as it is revealed that "Sabu" had turned informant.

The secretive community of internet hackers has been shaken today as the FBI has arrested or charged five members of the hacking group LulzSec. In a dramatic sequence of events, it was revealed that the head of the group, who used the name "Sabu", has been working for the FBI since the middle of last year.

Sabu, whose real name is Hector Xavier Monsegur, is a 28 year old unemployed Puerto Rican living in New York. He has been charged with 12 criminal counts of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking and other crimes. He has pleaded guilty to carrying out online attacks against PayPal and Mastercard.

LulzSec, a group of up to 10 people, stormed the hacking scene last year, attacking high profile targets including Sony, the CIA, the US Senate, and the FBI. After this explosive start, it announced abruptly in June that it would leave the hacking world. It wasn't quite the end though. The group continued to carry out some attacks against targets including Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Back in June, the Guardian published leaked chat logs which gave an insight into internal tensions in the organisation:

The group's ambitions went too far for some of its members: when the group hit an FBI-affiliated site on 3 June, two lost their nerve and quit, fearing reprisals from the US government. After revealing that the two, "recursion" and "devrandom" have quit, saying they were "not up for the heat", Sabu tells the remaining members: "You realise we smacked the FBI today. This means everyone in here must remain extremely secure."

Fox News, which broke the story, quoted an unnamed FBI official:

This is devastating to the organization. We're chopping off the head of LulzSec.

Both Fox News and the FBI have reason to be pleased about this, as they've both been targeted by LulzSec in the past.

The worry in the hacking community will be that these five arrests -- two in the UK, two in Ireland, and one in Chicago -- could be just the tip of the iceberg. The co-operation of Monsegur could mean arrests not only of other members of LulzSec but of others within the broader hacking collective, Anonymous, from which the smaller group sprung. It is necessarily a very paranoid world, and this development will do nothing to appease these fears about security.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.