‘We Do It for the Lulz': What Makes LulzSec Tick?

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Adrian Chen, a Gawker writer who’s been following the group and raising their heckles recently tweeted, “I want to know how much @lulzsec is making off all this. Don’t really buy that it’s all for the lulzs.”

And one of LulzSec’s victims, Karim Hijazi of security startup Unveillance, has claimed the group tried to extort him. LulzSec denies it, telling Hijazi in a statement that they were “simply going to pressure you into a position where you could be willing to give us money for our silence, and then expose you publicly.”

“Though it is clear that Anon’s operations have been politically motivated, I don’t think that LulzSec’s motivations are as simple as just causing chaos,” says University of Utah cyberconflict researcher Sean Lawson. “I think there’s more to it than that.”

One of LulzSec’s motives, Lawson says, is pointing out hypocrisy by government and corporate actors. For example, LulzSec this week broke into the Senate’s website and published administrative account information, asking if that was considered an Act of War as the Pentagon had recently suggested such breaches would be.

(MORE: Hackers Claim to Sting CIA Website, Attack Senate Site Again)

“With the Senate.gov hack and their mocking response, they are clearly making a statement which says that such threats by the U.S. are ridiculous and hypocritical when government systems are so poorly protected,” Lawson says. “In the case of their specific hacks of white-hat, cybersecurity industry players like Unveillance, I think they are saying, ‘You’re not as good as you think you are; you’re failing your customers and have been selling bogus solutions.’”

Endgame

Whatever their motivation, their recent attacks on FBI affiliates, the Senate, and the CIA show LulzSec is increasingly like the fearless honey badger who doesn’t give a damn. They are not only in the sights of the government, but now in Anonymous’ as well, after the group targeted 4chan and some of the Anons’ favorite video game sites.

Unsurprisingly, LulzSec downplays the situation via Twitter: “Saying we’re attacking Anonymous because we taunted /b/ is like saying we’re going to war with America because we stomped on a cheeseburger.”

As we see in the Joker, someone so seemingly reckless and with apparently nothing to lose makes for a formidable opponent. Later in The Dark Knight, there is this exchange between Alfred and Bruce Wayne:

Bruce Wayne: The bandit, in the forest in Burma, did you catch him?

Alfred: Yes.

Bruce Wayne: How?

Alfred: We burned the forest down.

Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that online.

PHOTOS: The Movies’ Most Evil Computer Villains

Jerry Brito is a contributor to TIME. Find him on Twitter at @jerrybrito. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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