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

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 -- DJMash.at.  Anonymous writes:

Thus below we are releasing the User Info Database of MyBart.gov, 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 bart.gov, 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 myBART.org 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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By ForeverStudent on 8/15/2011 11:25:12 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
IMO just a bunch of petty whiners complaining about their rights.


Alright. Whoever posted this is clearly not an American, or if they are, they shouldn't consider themselves one. Here's a brief explanation of why, based on what the American philosophy is.

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." -- Thomas Paine: The American Crisis, No. 4, 1777

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke

But perhaps best put:

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt." -- John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election, 1790. (Speeches. Dublin, 1808.) as quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations

And my personal favorites:

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." -- Samuel Adams

and

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion; what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, 1787

Basically, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand up for our rights. If we ever fail to do so, we may as well just give them away.

I have had MANY qualms with many of the deeds Anonymous has done, but their heart is in the right place. I think they are probably more American than any politician currently in office.


By tng on 8/16/2011 7:28:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
Wow, do you know what your rights are? As a life long American, I have made it a priority to study what my rights actually are. While morons complain about their right to send messages to their Facebook friends in a train station and I worry about that REAL rights are eroded everyday by the people in DC.


RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By tng on 8/16/2011 7:42:57 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Thomas Paine
quote:
Edmund Burke
quote:
John Philpot Curran
quote:
John Philpot Curran
quote:
Basically, it is our responsibility as Americans to stand up for our rights. If we ever fail to do so, we may as well just give them away. I have had MANY qualms with many of the deeds Anonymous has done, but their heart is in the right place. I think they are probably more American than any politician currently in office.
It is really easy to quote a bunch of platitudes, they sound nice, but it is clear that you really don't understand what your real rights are. Get a copy of the Federalist Papers and read, re-read and then do it again.

BTW Anon is not in any way American, or any country for that matter. They are whinny children who get upset over small things like this. They say they stand for the little people, but like always, it is the innocents that they harm in the end, proving that they are just as bad as the politicians.


RE: Not sure about what they are protesting for.
By YashBudini on 8/16/2011 6:33:18 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.
When the government fears the people, there is liberty.

Thomas Jefferson


By tng on 8/19/2011 7:36:24 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
Now there is a quote that actually has a lesson. When the government FEARS the people.... sounds like a good reason to learn how to use and own at least one firearm.

Thanks Yash.


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