On 7 June 2011, a 27-year-old school dropout called Hector Xavier Monsegur went offline for 24 hours. For most of us, this would indicate nothing more than a day spent enjoying the fresh air, but his closest online friends were immediately suspicious. They knew Monsegur only as “Sabu”, a fellow member of LulzSec, a splinter faction from the “hacktivist” group Anonymous. To them, being offline for a whole day was deeply odd behaviour.
Gabriella (Biella) Coleman, an anthropologist who has studied Anonymous for half a decade, describes what happened next. “They asked him to ‘open a box’ – hack into something. As proof.” Sabu did so and they took him back into their confidence.