Anonymous try to hack into San Francisco's transit system
Aug. 15, 2011
The well known hacking group Anonymous took credit yesterday for an online attack targeting San Francisco's rapid transit system. The group has a reputation for targeting mission-critical and sensitive computer networks across the globe, and this one isn't any different than previous attacks made by the group.
But for now, their motives are still unknown, however. In a news release attributed to the group, and backed up by related Twitter pages, Anonymous said it would take down the website of the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, known as BART, between noon and 6.00 PM Pacific time yesterday.
The move is in response to the organization's management decision to cut off cellphone signals at select subway stations in response to a planned protest last week.
"By cutting off cell phone service, you have not only threatened your citizens' safety, you have also performed an act of censorship," a seemingly computer-generated voice said in a video posted online Sunday afternoon. "And by doing this, you have angered Anonymous."
Yesterday afternoon, a link off BART's website to myBART.org apparently had been hacked as well. It showed a page featuring, among other items, the Anonymous logo -- a smirking mask above two crossed swords, all on a black background.
Additionally, Twitter traffic related to Anonymous also said that the hackers had been able to get into BART's internal network as well. Several related items and documents were posted, including one claiming to be "the User Info Database of MyBart.gov." This had e-mails and, in some cases, phone numbers of hundreds of people.
"We apologize to any citizen that has his information published, but you should go to BART and ask them why your information wasn't secure with them in the first place," the posted item said. "Also-- don't worry-- probably the only information that will be abused from this database is that of BART employees, not you."
A call to a BART communication officer wasn't immediately returned at around 8.00 PM PT.
In a statement on its website released earlier in the day, BART acknowledged that it was aware of the threatened online attack, and that it was taking steps in response to it.
"We're doing what we can to defend ourselves against any attack on the BART website," the managers said. "BART's website infrastructure is wholly separate from any computer network involved in the operation of BART service, and therefore cannot jeopardize the safety of our passengers."
In recent years, Anonymous has targeted several organizations to make political statements, not just in the United States but in many other countries as well.
For example, Anonymous last week promised an operation targeting Facebook. And it also took credit for hacking the web site of the Syrian Defense Ministry, replacing its content with an anti-government message and the Anonymous logo.
The group also has boasted about taking down numerous other prominent websites, including those of PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and the Church of Scientology.
The action in San Francisco is the latest challenge for the transit system, which has faced criticism after several shootings involving its police officers-- the latest coming in July and resulting in the death of 45-year-old Charles Hill.
Additionally, demonstrators had planned a rally on August 11 to bring attention to the issue. But BART said that such a protest during rush hour endangered the safety of commuters and employees. Anonymous then accused BART's management of 'double talk' and of twisting words around to its benefit.
In response, BART's management contended in a statement that "it temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform." Interestingly, the move was made on the same day that British Prime Minister David Cameron proposed a crackdown on social media to appease several riots in the United Kingdom.
The statement from Anonymous is interpreted as a new peaceful demonstration that it said would occur at 5 p.m. Monday at the transit system's Civic Center station. "We sincerely hope that this series of actions will serve as a warning to BART and every public organization in the U.S. to not engage in this sort of dangerous and human rights violating behavior," the statement said.
In the same video statement linked to Anonymous and posted yesterday, a voice urges demonstrators to wear red shirts "in remembrance of those who have been battered by the BART police" and bring a camera to record the events.
"We will show the world and BART that we will not stand for these types of actions," the voice said.
BART then issued another alert yesterday advising passengers about the possible Monday protest.
"As always, BART's primary mission is to ensure the safety of our users and keep all our trains on-time," said a statement on the system's website. "BART may need to close some stations temporarily or make other service adjustments on short notice. We will keep you posted", the statement said.
On BART's homepage, a statement says "Local, state and federal elected officials, and their staff, are encouraged to contact management about any BART-related issue. The BART Police Department is comprised of 296 people, of which 206 are sworn peace officers anywhere in California.
You can link to the Internet Security web site as much as you like.