Only a little more than a month and a half ago, the merry pranksters of Lulz Security began their quest to wreak havoc on the computer systems of the world, all in the name of lulz. Today, that anarchic campaign has come to an abrupt end. The group announced via a statement posted to Pastebin that it will permanently disband, dropping the Lulz Boat anchor for good. As a parting gift, LulzSec also released a trove of data stolen from companies like AOL and AT&T, evidence that the group hacked the website of the US Navy, plus a variety of other illicit goodies.

“For the past 50 days we’ve been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possibly everything in between, just because we could,” writes LulzSec. “All to selflessly entertain others – vanity, fame, recognition, all of these things are shadowed by our desire for that which we all love. The raw, uninterrupted, chaotic thrill of entertainment and anarchy.”

The group confirmed its retirement on the LulzSec Twitter feed, which managed to amass 277,540 followers during its short stint online.

During its 50-day stint of digital escapades, LulzSec hacked PBS.org, a variety of websites owned by Sony, Nintendo, FBI affiliate Infragard Atlanta, 50+ porn sites, Bethesda software, 4Chan.org, CIA.gov, Senate.gov and a variety of law enforcement agencies in Arizona.

LulzSec’s statement goes on to explain that, like “Hitler and Osama bin Laden,” they are people, too. “People with a preference for music, a preference for food; we have varying taste in clothes and television, we are just like you,” says the group.

In what appears to be an attempt to explain the non-lulz motivation behind its most high-profile hack — this week’s release of hundreds of classified and/or private data from Arizona law enforcement as a protest of its strict immigration law, and other moves related to the joint LulzSec-Anonymous “AntiSec” campaign — LulzSec says that its members “truly believe” in that cause — so strongly, in fact, that they “brought it back, much to the dismay of those looking for more anarchic lulz.”

While the group says that the brief duration of its existence was planned from the beginning, some have already begun to argue that the pressure on LulzSec simply became too much for them to handle. And they might have a point. In the past two weeks alone, Scotland Yard arrested a 19-year-old with ties to the group; hacker group Web Ninjas published names, photos and other personal data related to people it claims are members of LulzSec; and another hacker group, TeaMp0isoN, defaced the website of an alleged LulzSec member.

Regardless of its reason for throwing in the towel, the group adds this as its final bon voyage: “We must now sail into the distance, leaving behind – we hope – inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere. Anywhere.”

“LulzSec” may be done. But something tells us that the people behind its shenanigans are far from finished. Stay tuned.

Read LulzSec’s full statement:

Friends around the globe,

We are Lulz Security, and this is our final release, as today marks something meaningful to us. 50 days ago, we set sail with our humble ship on an uneasy and brutal ocean: the Internet. The hate machine, the love machine, the machine powered by many machines. We are all part of it, helping it grow, and helping it grow on us.

For the past 50 days we’ve been disrupting and exposing corporations, governments, often the general population itself, and quite possibly everything in between, just because we could. All to selflessly entertain others – vanity, fame, recognition, all of these things are shadowed by our desire for that which we all love. The raw, uninterrupted, chaotic thrill of entertainment and anarchy. It’s what we all crave, even the seemingly lifeless politicians and emotionless, middle-aged self-titled failures. You are not failures. You have not blown away. You can get what you want and you are worth having it, believe in yourself.

While we are responsible for everything that The Lulz Boat is, we are not tied to this identity permanently. Behind this jolly visage of rainbows and top hats, we are people. People with a preference for music, a preference for food; we have varying taste in clothes and television, we are just like you. Even Hitler and Osama Bin Laden had these unique variations and style, and isn’t that interesting to know? The mediocre painter turned supervillain liked cats more than we did.

Again, behind the mask, behind the insanity and mayhem, we truly believe in the AntiSec movement. We believe in it so strongly that we brought it back, much to the dismay of those looking for more anarchic lulz. We hope, wish, even beg, that the movement manifests itself into a revolution that can continue on without us. The support we’ve gathered for it in such a short space of time is truly overwhelming, and not to mention humbling. Please don’t stop. Together, united, we can stomp down our common oppressors and imbue ourselves with the power and freedom we deserve.

So with those last thoughts, it’s time to say bon voyage. Our planned 50 day cruise has expired, and we must now sail into the distance, leaving behind – we hope – inspiration, fear, denial, happiness, approval, disapproval, mockery, embarrassment, thoughtfulness, jealousy, hate, even love. If anything, we hope we had a microscopic impact on someone, somewhere. Anywhere.

Thank you for sailing with us. The breeze is fresh and the sun is setting, so now we head for the horizon.

Let it flow…

Lulz Security – our crew of six wishes you a happy 2011, and a shout-out to all of our battlefleet members and supporters across the globe