The moles, who are already embedded deep inside the hacking community, are then reporting back to the FBI about large-scale identity fraud in an attempt to earn themselves softer sentences. Some major illegal forums where hackers sell stolen credit card details and forged identities are even being run by the FBI moles, it has been claimed. The management of other sites have been taken over by FBI agents posing as ID theft specialists, or 'carders', where they can use the intelligence to land genuine hackers with lengthy jail sentences. It is thought their work has already managed to put dozens of online criminals in jail - leaving the underground hacking world riddled with paranoia about infiltration. Eric Corley, who publishes 2600, the hacker quarterly, told the Guardian that as many as a quarter of all hackers in the U.S. may have been recruited by authorities as moles. 'Owing to the harsh penalties involved and the relative inexperience with the law that many hackers have, they are rather susceptible to intimidation, he said.
John Young, who runs Cryptome, a website similar to WikiLeaks that attempts to publish secret documents, added: 'It makes for very tense relationships. There are dozens and dozens of hackers who have been shopped by people they thought they trusted.' Among many convictions is the extremely high-profile case of Bradley Manning, who is being held on suspicion of passing on documents to WikiLeaks.
He was shopped to authorities by Adrian Lamo, a convicted hacker turned informant.
Lamo, who is viewed in online communities as a 'Judas' and has been called 'the world's most hated hacker', has said: 'Obviously it's been much worse for him but it's certainly been no picnic for me. He followed his conscience, and I followed mine.
Barrett Brown, a spokesman for the 'hacktivist' group Anonymous, told the Guardian: 'The FBI are always there. They are always watching, always in the chatrooms. You don't know who is an informant and who isn't, and to that extent you are vulnerable.'
Kevin Poulsen, senior editor at Wired magazine, added: 'We have already begun to see Anonymous members attack each other and out each other's IP addresses.
'That's the first step towards being susceptible to the FBI.'
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