Anonymous Placed $700K in Fraudulent CC Charges, Left Charities With Fees
March 13, 2012 1:00 PM
Is this truly the face of "hactivism"? Inside Anonymous's hack of Stratfor
A reader of
$300 USD in fraudulent charges
placed on his credit card after the number was stolen from Austin, Texas security firm Stratfor Forecasting, Inc. The hooligans charged $300 to his account, buying hooded sweatshirts.
I. FBI: Stratfor
But he's hardly alone. In total, the
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations
(FBI) -- itself
a recent victim of
that $700,000 USD in charges were placed on the
90,000+ credit cards
that were stolen by members of the massive worldwide hacker collective
It is not yet fully determined why
singled out Stratfor for an attack as part of its "
", an effort it conducted with
its notorious splinter group
stole 90,000+ credit card no. from Stratfor.
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]
It is likely that the firm was targeted due to its close relationship with the government. The firm specialized at predicting actions of nation-state level players like the U.S., as well as militant groups, such as al Qaeda. The firm -- composed heavily of ex-intelligence and ex-military officials -- sold its analysis reports to news networks, international government agencies, and Fortune 500 firms.
But despite being wizards of intelligence gathering, Stratfor was downright foolish when it came to securing its servers. Passwords on the servers were reportedly in plaintext, which allowed hackers with
to easily deeply penetrate the company's digital presence and steal a wealth of information -- including customers' credit cards.
, a major Twitter account for the collective:
II. Charities Left to Foot the Bill for
In the wake of the attacks
vowed that in the spirit of "hacktivism" they would use the cards to donate to charities, such as
the Red Cross
Save the Children
. Most of the donations were indeed charged to these charities.
HBGary's CEO Aaron
Allen Barr -- whose information was also abused during the series of intrusions, "It was all charities, the Red Cross, CARE, Save the Children. So when the credit card company called my wife she wasn't sure whether I was just donating. It made me feel terrible. It made my wife feel terrible. We had to close the account."
Cody Sultenfuss an employee with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also was among those affected. He states, "They took money I did not have. I think 'Why me?' I am not rich."
"Occupy Wall Street" protesters celebrate the hack outside Austin security contractor Stratfor's headquarters. [Image Source: John Anderson]
is known for being vindictive and unforgiving in its assaults. In fact its ubiquitous slogan is:
We are Anonymous
We do not forgive
We do not forget
While much of its efforts have focused on
harassing executives at government contractors
like HBGary and Statfor, at times its members have shown themselves more than willing to attack lowly employees who work at firms the collective considers "dirty". It is this approach that has drawn criticism.
However, in this case it is the charities that will likely suffer. While the victims credit scores may take a hit, the FBI estimates that most of the $700K USD in fraudulent donations has been cancelled.
Worse yet, according to F-Secure security chief Mikko Hyponnen, the donations will allow credit card companies to charge the nonprofits thousands, if not millions in punitive fees.
These donations will never reach the ones in need. In fact, these actions will just end up hurting the charities, not helping them. When credit card owners see unauthorized charges on their cards, they will report them to their bank or credit card company. Credit card companies will do a chargeback to the charities, which will have to return the money. In some cases, charities could be hit with penalties. At the very least, they will lose time and money in handling chargebacks.
While the unfortunate turn of events may serve to highlight unsavory credit card practices, it also is symbolic of the at times bumbling nature of the "attack first, think later" brand of justice practiced by some of
's many worldwide members.
's actions may unintentionally end up costing charities like the Red Cross, thousands to millions in fees, depriving the poverty and disaster-stricken of support. [Image Source: AP]
Further, there are a growing number of claims that not all of the "donations" were to charity -- some were in fact
members donating to their own pockets. Of course to be fair, it's possible that some members of
became aware of the likelihood that charities would be hit with fees and denials, and instead decided to purchase items like hooded sweatshirts and other untraceable goods to personally distribute to the poor.
Regardless, for charities the net impact is likely going to be quite negative.
Leveraged Attack to Post More U.S.-Targeting Espionage
encouraged the attack and has been publishing scores of Stratfor's emails from a 200 GB archive of stolen information.
founder Julian Assange
, "[Stratfor is] a private intelligence firm, relying on informants from the U.S. government, foreign intelligence agencies with questionable reputations and journalists...[what] is of grave concern is that the targets of this scrutiny are, among others, activist organizations fighting for a just cause."
attacks Stratfor's apparent policy of paying international political insiders for information. The site says the emails ”show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment laundering techniques and psychological methods” and “expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States.”
itself gathers similar information by encouraging people to steal it. However, unlike Statfor, which analyzes the world,
' "leaking" focuses
on one nation
-- the U.S. Site insiders defend this singular focus, claiming the U.S. is the chief geopolitical aggressor. However, when pointed to the host of anti-freedom, anti-democracy behavior in regions such as China, Russia, and the Middle East the site's proponents paradoxically argue that the U.S. is more open and less guarded, hence is "easier to gather leaks from."
singular focus on the U.S.
has led some to believe that it is receiving money and or intelligence information from hostile nation-state players
who would love to see the U.S. name discredited internationally.
founder Julian Assange -- an ex college professor, convicted hacker, and self-proclaimed "transparency" crusader, who now enjoys a lavish lifestyle of international travel and fame -- has refused to publish his donors, explicit donor guidelines, or any concrete information about his site's budget/finances. And neither he nor
ever appears to have pledged to refuse money from nation states that might benefit from one-side "leaks".
Julian Assange has been rewarded with a lavish lifestyle for his attacks on the U.S. Some speculate leaks on Stratfor and other players may be financed by China or other hostile nation-states. [Image Source: Boing Boing]
Thus it is unclear whether all is as it seems, or whether
is really a front for an anti-American international espionage effort, cleverly exploiting the gullible anti-American nature of many members of
Regardless of where exactly the financial truth and motivations behind
and its founder's actions lie, the site's credibility was
when the full,
was recently posted.
claimed that the video -- shot from a U.S. army AH-64 Apache helicopter in Baghdad, Iraq -- depicted the U.S. military
gunning down a group of civilians
, including a pair of
journalists. While indeed two journalists were killed in the attack, the unedited footage revealed that
had edited out clips showing that the majority of the people in the area were armed militants carrying a rocket launcher and other equipment. It also appeared that
had dubbed false dialogue to make it appear as if the soldier manning the chopper cursed at the militants, screaming "prick", when in fact he said "break" indicating to shut down the gun.
Wikileaks edited out portions of the chopper cam video thast showed armed militants, in an effort to make the strike look like it intentionally targeted non-combatants.
[Image Source: U.S. Army via YouTube]
proponents have reacted to the revelation in several ways. Some claim that the guns could easily be mistaken for "long telephoto lenses" and thus the edit was unintentional, a claim that paints an inadvertently fantastic and hilarious notion of a group of dozens of photographers with "long telephoto" lenses trooping around the most dangerous regions of Baghdad on a photo-shooting party. Others admit that the site sensationalism, but argue that the site should be allow to the same tactics it blasts news sites for as it is "revealing global wrongdoing".
The video -- like the ongoing leaks of Stratfor and other contractors -- has triggered
in the Middle East, with groups like the Taliban and al Qaeda stating that there will be bloodshed for the U.S. treachery. A senior editor for Britain's most prestigious newspaper
claims Julian Assange was
delighted at the idea of loss of lives
of U.S. allies exclaiming, "These people were collaborators, informants. They deserve to die."
While journalists with
The New York Times
(also at the meeting) and other top international journalists at the meeting corroborated the statement, Julian Assange maintains that the acclaimed writers are all liars. He accuses the same news sites that help to promote and publish his organization (such as
committing to "lies" and a massive "conspiracy"
to silence his "truth". His followers unquestioningly parrot the defense that the alleged quote is just "media lies" to discredit a "hero".
May Have Protested Stratfor Hack
Returning to Stratfor, likely more will come out in coming weeks as the international trials of members of
-- who participated in the intrusion -- carry on. The group's members have now
all been arrested and detained
, thanks to the work of their former leader "Sabu", who was actually a single father of two living in New York City.
The welfare recipient
worked to sabotage the government
that was paying for his and his children’s' livelihood, until the FBI swooped in and caught him. At that point the
"don" opted to save his own hide and turn informant. For the next several months he collected information that
led to the arrest of his underlings
, including those that participated in the Stratfor attack.
Hacker "messiah" Hector Monsegur, handle "Sabu" was a top leader in
and beloved. While on government welfare, he helped mastermind the attack on gov't contractor Stratfor.
[Image Source: Fox News]
While some of the information on the Stratfor has already been published in various
attributed posts, the statements of international law enforcement agencies in the trials offer some of the first definitive verification and accounting of the extent of certain intrusions, such as the Stratfor breach.
reeling over Sabu's betrayal
and responded with their favorite action -- more attacks. Sabu was one viewed as a top leader in
. Now he's reviled as a "snitch".
is "a group without a leader", in principle, but in practice
it has many leaders
, operating somewhat like a termite nest. In a sense Sabu was like a queen -- while it's a blow to
, other queens will rise to take his place.
There is potential evidence that not all members of the group agreed with Sabu or his attack on Stratfor. A
Stratfor has been purposefully misrepresented by these so-called Anons and portrayed in false light as a company which engages in activity similar to HBGary. Sabu and his crew are nothing more than opportunistic attention whores who are possibly agent provocateurs. As a media source, Stratfor's work is protected by the freedom of press, a principle which Anonymous values greatly.
This hack is most definitely not the work of Anonymous.
How much truth the claim holds is anyone's guess as the post could easily be the work of Stratfor or the U.S. government, even. However, given that Sabu or his associates likely had posting rights to
, the presence of Twitter posts on the common feed does not necessarily represent that all members of the collective supported the attack.
"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad
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