A group of expert hackers who attacked governments and corporations around the globe have been arrested after its ringleader turned against his comrades and began working as an informant for the FBI, authorities say.
Five people were charged in court papers unsealed in federal court in New York, and authorities revealed that a sixth person, Hector Xavier Monsegur, of New York, has pleaded guilty.
Monsegur was portrayed in court papers as the ringleader, one of the world's most-wanted computer vandals known in the hacking underworld as "Sabu".
Authorities said he formed an elite hacking organisation last May and named it Lulz Security or LulzSec. "Lulz" is internet slang that can be interpreted as "laughs", "humour" or "amusement".
Despite the organisation's light-hearted name, authorities said Monsegur and his followers embarked on a stream of deeds against business and government entities in the US and around the world, resulting in the theft of confidential information, the defacing of websites and attacks that temporarily put victims out of business.
Their exploits included attacks on cyber-security firms and the posting of a fake story that murdered rapper Tupac Shakur was alive in New Zealand.
As their exploits became known, some hackers associated with the group boasted about their prowess.
Monsegur was charged with conspiracy to engage in computer hacking, among other offences. Authorities said he pleaded guilty on August 15.
According to the court papers, he was an "influential member of three hacking organisations - Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulz Security - that were responsible for multiple cyber attacks on the computer systems of various businesses and governments in the United States and throughout the world".
LulzSec is a spin-off of the loosely organised hacking collective Anonymous. Its members attained notoriety last May by attacking the PBS website and posting the false story about Shakur.