As Topiary, Kayla and Tflow face the final boss, Ed Uncovered remembers LulzSec – The Best and Worst Thing ever to have happened on the internet.
This is Lulz Security, better known as those evil bastards from twitter…For the past month and a bit, we’ve been causing mayhem and chaos throughout the Internet, attacking several targets including PBS, Sony, Fox, porn websites, FBI, CIA, the U.S. government, Sony some more, online gaming servers (by request of callers, not by our own choice), Sony again, and of course our good friend Sony.”
So began the gleeful statement from LulzSec. It was June of 2011, and the internet was a very different place. Sabu was a zealous freedom fighter. Mark Zuckerberg was a moderately rich Jew. An obscure currency called Bitcoin had peaked at $30. And LulzSec were tearing up the interwebs for our amusement.
It was a simpler time. A more innocent time. A better time, some would say, but that’s the trouble with the past: we’re always bound to romanticise it.
Today it’s LulzSec’s turn to be romanced hard. Today we expend all our feels and all our internets on the gallant crew of the Lulz Boat. They may have been thieves, trolls and turncoats, but damn, they were funny. Our sides have never been the same since.
I Just Nostalgia’d Hard
2011. Two years ago in real world terms. A generation on the internet. Back then, things were very different. Take The Sun’s website, for instance, which looked unrecognisable from the red and white abortion we know today. As LulzSec gleefully reported on July 18th:
Earlier that day, the lulz merchants had hacked News International and planted a story which claimed Rupert Murdoch had been found dead, having “ingested a large quantity of palladium before stumbling into his famous topiary garden late last night, passing out in the early hours of the morning.”
When News International released a statement condemning the hack, LulzSec hacked that too and cheekily reworded it.
This sequence of events occurred over the course of just one day – July 18th 2011 – after LulzSec had officially disbanded. The Summer of Lulz, as it came to be known, had already given birth to 50 days of mayhem, many of which were just as memorable.
No wonder LulzSec were so loved.
No wonder they were so hated.
Bigger than The Beatles
At their peak, the crew of the Lulz Boat had the US three-letter agencies tying themselves in knots, Tupac Shakur resurrected and the jimmies of a million PlayStation users rustling angrily in the breeze. Not bad for a loose-knit crew of autistic neckbeards, most of whom were too young to even have neckbeards.
For a short while, LulzSec seemed unstoppable. They hacked, they defaced, they rooted and RM’d, indiscriminately and without warning. No site was safe from SQLi and no mail spools were too sacred to plunder.
They taunted the feds, they ridiculed white hats and they spat more one-liners than a tank full of Family Guy-writing manatees.
LulzSec didn’t just make the news – sometimes they even wrote it.
Law enforcement, scrambling to expand clueless cybercrime units, were out of their depth. LulzSec may not have been a complex threat, but it was one they had little experience of dealing with. How do you reign in a multi-tentacled monster that has no recognisable face and which spans countries and continents?
It had to end of course, and eventually it did, when the party van began making its way across Britain through summer 2011. For Topiary, the music stopped abruptly on 27th July when a police convoy pulled up outside his home on the remote island of Yell. Ironically, the capture of LulzSec’s precocious mouthpiece owed less to the feds’ technical prowess and more to Sabu’s arrest weeks earlier. Once LulzSec’s de facto leader had flipped, it was only a matter of time until Topiary was v&.
By that point, LulzSec had already completed their voyage, stating:
That the nucleus of LulzSec should have been formed in the UK should come as no surprise. Britain may be a shitty country, but when it comes to culture, its exports have always trounced the US’s offerings: punk rock, art, literature and now hacking. (You can thank us later for the dubstep, ‘murrica.)
The day the lulz stopped
Just as our parents recall the day Kennedy checked out, the anonymous generation remember the moment when the lulz died. It occurred five days after a 17-year-old from Shetland wrote the following epitaph:
The banality of LulzSec’s real lives would soon emerge: that Topiary was a shy autist, that Sabu was a traitorous hood rat and, contrary to previous claims, Kayla was not a 16-year-old girl.
Where were you the night that Topiary trolled Westbro Baptist Church? Or the time Aaron Barr’s Twitter account proclaimed: “Sup motherfuckers, I’m CEO of a shitty company and I’m a giant media-whoring cunt”?
It doesn’t matter that LulzSec’s hacks were relatively unsophisticated. It doesn’t matter that Sabu was a traitor, or that the group’s rhetoric didn’t withstand much scrutiny.
All we know is that if we could swap our $100 bitcoin and Google Glass for 2011’s simpler pleasures, we would. We’d do it in a heartbeat. We’d give it all up – the Facebook stock and the 4G tablets – for some more high-quality entertainment at our expense.
With the jailing of Topiary, Viral and Kayla, the lulz are officially over. Had the trio been extradited to the US, they’d likely be facing double digits inside a state penitentiary. Instead, they will collectively serve no more than three years.
This is in spite of the prosecutor’s adorable closing speech: “This is not about young immature men messing about. They are at the cutting edge of a contemporary and emerging species of criminal offender known as a cybercriminal.”
Provided the US doesn’t go full McKinnon on him, Topiary will be free in a few weeks. Tflow is already free, having escaped with 300 hours’ community service. In landing the slenderest sentences ever meted out to a gang of ‘cutting edge cybercriminals’, LulzSec might just have pulled off their greatest troll yet.