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The hacker collective Anonymous recently defaced the page of San Francisco's BART and released customers' information.  (Source: the Chronicle /

The hacks come in response to BART trying to stifle protests of a police brutality case, by blocking cell phone service at its stations and on its trains.  (Source: Paul Sakuma/AP)

Anonymous had helped coordinate the protest.  (Source: Alex Jones InfoWars)
Hacks come in response to BART trying to quell silent protests

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people," the fictional character V infamously remarked in the film V is for Vendetta.

Anonymous, a group which borrows its visual guise from that graphic novel-turned-film, has certainly been filling governments with frustration this year.  The hacktivist group played a role in the unrest in the Middle East earlier this year, and now has claimed yet another target -- the digital domain of the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

BART, San Francisco, California's local government-owned traditional "slow" rail system (top speed: 80 mph), drew criticism in January 2009 when cell phone videos captured transit cop Johannes Mehserle fatally shooting Oscar Grant III execution-style in the back after the man appeared to be cooperating with an arrest.  

That criticism only intensified after BART blocked cell phone traffic on its trains in an attempt to silence organizers of a protest at the station where the murder occurred.  

Agency spokesman Jim Allison defends the decision, stating, "We're going to take steps to make sure our customers are safe. The interruption of cell phone service was done Thursday to prevent what could have been a dangerous situation. It's one of the tactics we have at our disposal. We may use it; we may not. And I'm not sure we would necessarily let anyone know in advance either way."

Those efforts drew the ire of Anonymous who on Sunday defaced the transit service's myBARTway page as part of a major operation [press release] dubbed "OpBART".

Members also leaked over 2,000 user names, emails, and passwords (and in some cases addresses) to an Austrian domain name --  Anonymous writes:

Thus below we are releasing the User Info Database of, to show that BART doesn't give a shit about it's customers and riders and to show that the people will not allow you to kill us and censor us. This is but the one of many actions to come. 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. Also do not worry, probably the only information that will be abused from this database is that of BART employees. 

Anonymous's decision to implicate innocent commuters seems a questionable one.  Anonymous's claim that peoples' data "probably" won't be abused is hardly reassuring.  Anonymous seems a bit confused here -- in V is for Vendetta, V never intentionally targeted civilian bystanders.

Marsha-Ann Sebay, a Vallejo woman whose personal information was released, told the San Francisco Chronicle, "To be honest with you, I'd like to kick their ass. If you have a problem with someone, you resolve it with that person. You don't punish other people because you don't agree with something. There's other ways to protest. In my day, you bombarded them with letters."

That said, the fact that Anonymous was able to crack the passwords so easy and display them in plaintext indicates they were either stored in plaintext or, at best, stored as unsalted MD5 hashed values.  In that regard, customers should be mad at Anonymous for endangering them, but also at BART for failing to practice proper security.

Mr. Allison (whose info was not leaked, interestingly) tried to reassure customers stating, "We regret the inconvenience and stress that it's created for customers. We're disappointed that they would do this meant to be a service to our customers. We're doing everything we can to protect, which is used by nearly 2 million people a month as an important tool."

In an email to customers BART wrote:

Several hours ago, myBART account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into our system. In response to this intrusion, we will temporarily shut down the website, and have notified law enforcement authorities.

Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we know that an unauthorized person has obtained contact information from at least 2,400 of our 55,000 members. In most cases, the information consists of names, email addresses, and passwords. In some cases, the database also listed an address and phone number. No financial information is stored in the myBART database.

Such statements sound like the commentary of an entity that didn't do its work to properly protect its customers in the first place.  Anonymous may not have made any friends with its antics, but maybe if BART was less worried about block peaceful protests and more worried about protecting customers' private data properly, it wouldn't have suffered such a breach.

Anonymous, for better or worse, is soldiering along.  It's launched a new operation dubbed "Op Britain" [Pastebin], which targets the English government for its plan of censorship in the wake of recent class riots (ironically, Anonymous also has plans to attack Facebook, one of the targets of England's censorship bid).  Anonymous is also targeting [Pastebin] the Fullerton, California city Police Department after the fatal July beating of a homeless man by six city cops.  So far the Fullerton PD page has not been defaced.

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RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By quiksilvr on 8/15/2011 10:30:28 AM , Rating: 4
That's the equivalent of saying the banks built the infrastructure and run it so they have the right to cut off access to your money for a week.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By unlimited on 8/15/2011 10:36:47 AM , Rating: 1
Do your homework and you will understand. Mainstream news will not give you that information.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By tng on 8/15/2011 10:44:12 AM , Rating: 4
Do your homework and you will understand.
Don't have to "do my homework", I live there half of the year and see it up close. There was no city wide cut-off of cell phones, just in the tunnels that BART owns, on equipment they bought and maintain. They were perfectly within their rights to do it.

As I said if they wanted signal they could go upstairs and have it within less than a minute walk in most cases.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By Omega215D on 8/15/2011 10:59:38 AM , Rating: 4
Wasn't this done to prevent protestors from jamming train doors open thus rendering the train out of service? Seems like the protesters don't have jobs or school to go to...

There are also conflicting reports of what actually happened between the police and the knife wielding drunk.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By Obujuwami on 8/15/2011 11:53:26 AM , Rating: 5
The last time there was a protest on the BART platform they did stop trains from running by doing stupid stuff like preventing the doors from closing and jumping on the tops of the trains. BART was smart after that and just bypassed that station until they got the protesters out of the station. Unfortunately they moved to another station and shut that one down for like 15 or 20 minutes, but BART had it under control at that point.

Both protests are about the same thing: police brutality. In the case of Oscar Grant, it was a tragic accident. In the case of the drunk homeless guy on July 3rd, it was self defense. I ride BART and can tell you that the "homeless" (aka drunks/junkies) ride bart all day for about $1.75 because its a safe, climate controlled place they can sleep. They ruin the seats, contaminate the cars, and p*ss on the floors. (I have personally seen the last one) Obviously shooting them isn't the overall solution but they are violent and disrespectful to others on the trains so I really have little sympathy for the drunk homeless guy who attacked 2 cops.

The protests are, for lack of a better word, needed to keep the BART police in check. In the bay area, there have been several police abuse and corruption charges lately and it is good to see a organized protest for those departments to shape up. One big problem is that we, the people, are in fact powerless to change how the police act as we do not control the guidelines on discipline or how to remove an officer from the force for his actions. We (SF Bay Area) can protest such actions but in reality all it does it put pressure on the cops to do less and get in trouble more. I think that there should be the benefit of the doubt and people should examine these situations for what they are instead of just claiming its socioeconomic injustice or police brutality.

YES there are abuses, yes there needs to be independent investigations where recommendations are actually taken seriously, but overall people need to just give some time for transparent investigations to happen. Once those are done, people can review the data for themselves and make a decision on who to vote for and where to live.

Sorry, I kinda ranted there didn't I....

By Omega215D on 8/15/2011 1:21:06 PM , Rating: 3
No need to apologize, the more info I get on this the better. I'm sick of reading the extremes on both sides. Still, the protestors shouldn't inconvenience those who need to make a living.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By tng on 8/15/2011 10:39:19 AM , Rating: 5
That's the equivalent of saying the banks built the infrastructure and run it so they have the right to cut off access to your money for a week.
No, not really the same at all. You are free to go upstairs and receive and place calls, just not at the station. Also in areas of the East Bay where the trains run above ground, there is no issue at all.

Sorry this is still just a bunch of whiners, they lost nothing. They complain that the cut-off compromises safety, but the system ran for decades before cell phones just fine.

RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By quiksilvr on 8/15/2011 1:34:49 PM , Rating: 2
So I'll rephrase:

That's the equivalent of saying the banks built the infrastructure and run it so they have the right to shut down the physical banks for a week but still allow online use.

For most people this would be unnoticeable. But for some this is a crucial hit.

And just because decades before it ran fine without phones doesn't mean that would be the case today. There are multitudes more people and I doubt the level of safety back then was nearly as good as it is today.

By Totally on 8/15/2011 2:37:37 PM , Rating: 2
No still isn't the same, banks are closed on, you know major holidays, weekends.

By Analogous on 8/15/2011 4:02:03 PM , Rating: 2
BART has only had cell service in the underground for less than 5 years, therefore "decades" has no place in the discussion. So yeah, safety is about the same as it was BEFORE cell was available.

By Totally on 8/15/2011 2:29:14 PM , Rating: 1
You need money to pay bills and get on with your daily life.
Yow want to derp on the phone with Derpina, Derbert, whoever it is you derp with during a 30min train ride.

So, uh no they are not equivalent sayings.

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