Hacking group Anonymous demanded payment for stolen Symantec source code, an atypical move undermining the collective's ideological approach to hacking.
Hackers, ostensibly connected with either hacktivist group Anonymous or AntiSec, breached and then blackmailed the security firm, according to Symantec spokesman Cris Paden.
"Anonymous actually reached out to us, first, saying that if we provided them with money, they would not post any more source code. At that point, given that it was a clear-cut case of extortion, we contacted law enforcement and turned the investigation over to them," he said.
The FBI stepped in and posed as Symantec employee "Sam Thomas," offering the hackers $50,000 to keep quiet about the breach. But hacker YamaTough eventually suspected law enforcement involvement, telling Thomas to "say hi to the FBI."
Shortly afterwards, YamaTough and his co-conspirators released Symantec's code on The Pirate Bay website when the FBI stalled instead of sending them money as promised.
The hackers may have hurt themselves in the process, however, as the collectives' turn to financial gain for their exploits stands to tarnish Anonymous and AntiSec's reputations as ideologically motivated collectives.
Anonymous typically involves itself in political exposes, like striking at Mexico's Zetas drug cartel and targeting Turkish and Spanish governments for interfering with online freedom of speech.
Anonymous also regularly exposes security flaws in various companies like Sony and advocates against the entertainment industry's push for copyright law enforcement.
AntiSec is well-known for its many stunts against the U.S. government, FBI and CIA, as well as for hacking Rupert Murdoch's Sun Newspaper and Fox News. The collective joined forces with Anonymous last spring and since then has adopted Anonymous' penchant for ideological hacking.
But neither Anonymous nor AntiSec has a hierarchical organization, allowing anyone to claim membership and carry out hacks on their behalf.
If more people like YamaTough demand bribes rather than hacking to make a political statement, they will likely discourage outsiders from sympathizing with any of Anonymous' efforts and likely dilute any political will the group acquired through its many campaigns.
Furthermore, law enforcement is likely to become more aggressive in pursuing hackers who want money, exposing them and the rest of Anonymous and AntiSec to increased surveillance. Over time, monetarily motivated hackers like YamaTough may also be slowly paving their way to prison and eroding the ideological footing of the collective they claim to represent.