A hacker who in the past gained notoriety for hacking the Anonymous pseudo-official Twitter accounts, now claims he served as an FBI informant and helped the US government track down the hacker turned ISIS fighter Junaid Hussain.
"5hm00p," a well-known troll, hacker, and member of the trolling and hacking collective Rustle League, identified himself over the weekend as an FBI "snitch," as he put it.
"What the fuck have I done," he tweeted cryptically early Sunday morning. Then, more than 15 hours later, he began tweeting at the FBI Twitter account, with some tweets clearly written in anguish.
"I lost a lot of good friendships and my fucking honor," 5hm00p tweeted at the FBI, according to an archived copy of his now deleted tweets. "I'm so embarrassed to show my face in public now because of this."
He said that he helped kill a hacker named Junaid "TriCk" Hussain, who left the UK and joined ISIS in 2013. 5hm00p claimed to be traumatized by the experience.
"I fucking helped you MURDER him. Do you know how I feel now when I sleep at night?"
"I fucking helped you MURDER him. Do you know how I feel now when I sleep at night?" he tweeted. "Regardless that he was a terrorist and an animal I sure as fuck felt betrayed."
Hussain was killed in Syria with a drone strike on August 24th, along with two of his body guards. Hussain was the leader of the Islamic State Hacking Division, a hacking crew with ties to ISIS. Before he was radicalized and travelled to Syria, Hussain was a member of a notorious hacktivist group called Team Poison (or TeaMp0isoN), which is how he came into 5hm00p's orbit.
In his tweets, 5hm00p recalled being coerced to help the FBI once the agency threatened the livelihood of his family. The FBI had him attempt to entrap two of his friends with a wire while partying at the hacker conference Def Con in 2015, he said, with the goal of getting information on Hussain's whereabouts.
An FBI spokesperson declined to comment. But a source with knowledge of the facts told Motherboard that 5hm00p did indeed help the US government locate Hussain.
Jaime Cochran, a security analyst and former member of Rustle League, told Motherboard that 5hm00p reached out to her after his Twitter confession to apologize, and shared with her some more information on his alleged activities with the FBI.
5hm00p told her in an online chat that the FBI asked him to provide information on two hackers who knew Hussain from his Team Poison years, apparently because the FBI thought they were involved with ISIS as well.
Cochran said she had no reason not to believe the hacker's claims about working with the FBI, though she doubted the two hackers had anything to do with the terrorist group.
"It seems believable to me. I dunno why someone would make this up," Cochran told Motherboard in an encrypted chat.
According to his tweets, 5hm00p was also asked to provide information on members of the crew Hack the Planet as well as some of the juveniles in the hacking community, both of which he claims to have not done.
Later in the evening, 5hm00p mentioned he "sold out his one true friend," a third person he describes as a mother, though does not name her.
He explained he is coming clean because he can't "take the guilt anymore." (5hm00p did not respond to requests for comment, both made directly and via friends of his.)
It appears as though snitching on his friends was all for naught. The two people named by 5hm00p deny knowing anything about the whereabouts of Hussain's wife, and both claim they had a falling out with the jihadist couple many years ago. Despite this, they say they were approached by the FBI.
Dillon C, one of the hackers named by 5hm00p, posted a public statement about the experience, which has been verified by lawyer Jay Leiderman. (The other named individual told Motherboard, via private communications, that Hussain hated her, and that his wife "would not even talk to me again if I wanted to.")
The story echoes that of Hector Monsegur, or Sabu, one of the members of the hacker collective LulzSec. Sabu was an FBI informant for a year, and his help led to the arrests of several members of his hacking crew, as well as other hackers affiliated with Anonymous.
When Sabu was outed as an FBI informant, he was ostracized. His name is still used with contempt in the hacker community. 5hm00p's confession, however, is being met with different reactions.
"It isn't about forgiveness, it's about respect for owning up to it," Touya, a security analyst who was affiliated with LulzSec in the past, told Motherboard in an email.
Sources said this is happening for a few reasons. 5hm00p outing himself as an informant has endeared him to the community, as has his perceived level of remorsefulness, repeated apologies and self-deprecating comments. Then there is the fact 5hm00p's main purpose as an alleged FBI vehicle wasn't to arrest his friends, but to catch an actual terrorist.
If 5hm00p is telling the truth, he's made history as being in the first operation that targeted and killed a hacker classified as a combatant and not a simple criminal. He also confirmed once more that the FBI's favorite tactic to go after hackers is turn their associates into informants. Thus, his revelation, if true, might send hacktivists and the grey-hat hacking community into another identity crisis, and perhaps a witch hunt.
This piece has been amended. A previous version of this article stated that Monsegur or Sabu was the leader of LulzSec, but he was just one of the members. He was also an informant for around a year, not three.
The article has also been updated to include confirmation from an anonymous source that 5hm00p did help the US government locate Hussain.