LulzSec didn’t invent hacktivism, let alone hacking. But the small crew of publicity-hungry digital pirates may have ushered in a new era for both as they merrily sailed the cyber-seas for 50 days of mayhem that became perhaps the biggest tech story of the first half of 2011.
LulzSec now says that it’s put the Lulz Boat in permanent dry dock. Taking the group at its word, what did these six individuals (the membership number LulzSec now cops to) accomplish in their brief but explosive time in the spotlight?
Brand Name Hacktivism
More important than the digital scalps LulzSec took—Sony, PBS, Infragard, the CIA, Arizona’s Department of Public Saftey, to name a few—was the group’s canny use of social media and clever manipulation of a pliant press that may have redefined hacktivism forever.
LulzSec, short for Lulz Security, seems to have coalesced some months ago from the core group of hackers in the Anonymous collective which raided the computer systems of security firm HBGary Federal in February. Many of the handles used by purported Anonymous members in leaked Internet Relay Chat (IRC) logs where the HPGary Federal hit is discussed extensively have been linked to LulzSec’s core group of six members.
At some point, it seems, this group came up with a remarkably effective strategy for branding itself and publicizing its exploits. That campaign involved adopting a name based on the “in it for the lulz” (or laughs) Internet meme that straddles the line between being recognizable to a good chunk of the mainstream audience and still insider-y enough to seem young and hip.
Next, LulzSec used Twitter and its own Web site to great effect in scoring media coverage of its latest adventures in hacktivism. The LulzSec Twitter feed had more than 283,000 followers by the time the group called it quits. Following LulzSec’s first major attacks, including a hack of Fox.com and the publication of thousands of transaction logs from ATMs in the U.K., scores of mainstream and tech journalists began following “The Lulz Boat” religiously on Twitter.