BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – Saboteurs stole passwords and sensitive information on tipsters while hacking into the websites of several law enforcement agencies worldwide in attacks attributed to the collective known as Anonymous.
Breaches were reported this week in Boston, Syracuse, N.Y., Salt Lake City and Greece.
Hackers gained access to the Salt Lake City Police Department website that gathers citizen complaints about drug and other crimes, including phone numbers, addresses and other personal data of informants, police said.
The website remained down Friday as police worked to make it more secure.
Boston Police Department’s website was hacked Friday morning by the group, which claimed retaliation for police action during the Occupy Boston eviction.
The hackers posted a music video by 80s rapper KRS-One on the website with a message that threatened “more mayhem.”
Friday’s incident was the second time BPD had been hacked. Hackers referenced the initial cyber attack in their statement on bpdnews.com.
“They clearly ignored our warnings, because not only did they raid the camp again and kicked protesters off of public parks, but they also sent undercover TSA agents to assualt (sic) and attempt to steal from some organizers,” a message read.
Boston police evicted Occupy protesters from Dewey Square back in December after the movement sued for a permanent injunction against the city and lost in court.
Forty-six people were arrested during that eviction.
Boston police issued a statement acknowledging the site had been hacked, saying they were working on fixing the problem.
“It is unfortunate that someone would go to this extent to compromise BPDNews.com, a helpful and informative public safety resource utilized daily by community members seeking up-to-date news and information about important safety matters,” a police spokesperson said.
Computer security experts are not surprised.
“There’s no such thing as an un-hackable website,” says Tim Lasonde, the president of Boston-based NSK, inc., an information technology company. “Vulnerabilities that get exploited have been around forever and there always will be those vulnerabilities.”
Boston Police have an active online presence. They say they have more Twitter followers than any police department in the world. They have the oldest police blog in the country, founded in 2005, and it gets up to 90,000 hits a month. Those factors may have made this department a more attractive target.
Anonymous is a collection of Internet enthusiasts, pranksters and activists whose targets have included financial institutions such as Visa and MasterCard, the Church of Scientology and law enforcement agencies.
Following a spate of arrests across the world, the group and its various offshoots have focused their attention on law enforcement agencies in general and the FBI in particular.
The group also claimed responsibility for recently hacking the website of a Virginia law firm that represented a U.S. Marine involved in the deaths of civilians in Iraq in 2005.
Anonymous also published a recording on the internet Friday of a phone call between the FBI and Scotland Yard, gloating in a Twitter message that, “the FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now.”
In Greece, the Justice Ministry took down its site Friday after a video by activists claiming to be Greek and Cypriot members of Anonymous was displayed for at least two hours.
Salt Lake City authorities continued their investigation and said criminal charges were being considered.
Police said the group Anonymous had taken credit for the attack through local media but hadn’t contacted the department directly.
The hackers claim to have targeted the site in opposition to an anti-graffiti paraphernalia bill that eventually failed in the state Senate. The bill would have made it illegal to possess any instrument, tool or device with the intent of vandalizing an area with graffiti.
Salt Lake City police Detective Josh Ashdown downplayed any danger to citizens.
He said the department’s website is used by residents to report crimes or suspicious activity, and that some submit the tips anonymously while others include personal information.
Ashdown said investigators believe the group is bluffing about the extent of the information it got from the website, and he noted authorities didn’t think any of the details would be widely distributed.
He said police don’t have any reason to believe that citizens who reported crimes on the website are going to be targeted specifically.
“Our main concern is for the public not to lose confidence in the department,” Ashdown said.
In New York, Syracuse police said the department website had also been hacked in an attack attributed to Anonymous.
Sgt. Tom Connellan said names and passwords of people authorized to alter the site were stolen earlier this week and posted on Twitter.
No private information about officers or citizens was accessed, he said, though the site remained down Friday while the FBI and state police continued to investigate. In an online post attributed to Anonymous, the group claims to have targeted the Syracuse site for failing to aggressively pursue child abuse allegations against a former assistant basketball coach.
Another incident struck the website of the Alexandria, Va., law firm of Puckett & Faraj, which represented a U.S. Marine convicted of negligent dereliction of duty in a 2005 attack in Iraq that resulted in the deaths of 24 unarmed civilians.
Attorney Neal Puckett did not immediately return a telephone message and email seeking comment Friday.