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Bankers affected say it's no big deal

Jo David Cummins, president and CEO of Community First Bank of the Heartland in Illinois, laughs off Anonymous' mid-January "hack" of a U.S. Federal Reserve database, which scooped up his record and over 4,000 others.  He tells Reuters, "It hasn't been much of a hassle.  The information that was on the contact system was the same thing that was on my business card, so it wasn’t like it was anything that could do any harm to me or the bank."

I. Adobe Flaw Likely Exploited by Hackers.

But while it may not be a big deal for most of the affected, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Federal Reserve are taking the incident very seriously.  Comments Federal Reserve spokesman Jim Strader, "We are in the process of a comprehensive assessment to determine what information might have been obtained in this incident.  We remain confident that this incident did not affect critical operations of the Federal Reserve."

The site that the information leaked from was dubbed Emergency Communication System (ECS).  While protected by passwords and encryption, Anonymous was able to circumvent those barriers.  

It's possible that the attackers used an SQL injection (aka "Little Bobby Tables") style attack.  Such attacks can be prevented if the requests were sanitized.

However, it's also possible that the hackers exploited well-known security flaws in Adobe Systems, Inc.'s (ADBE) Cold Fusion suite, which the site was built upon.  In mid-January -- right about the time of the attack -- Adobe patched several critical security flaws that could allow malicious users access to restricted files and even allow them to takeover servers. 

Adobe Cold Fusion
An Adobe flaw may have been responsible for the Fed hack. [Image Source: Adobe]

In the press release for the patch, Adobe stated:

This hotfix addresses vulnerabilities that could permit an unauthorized user to remotely circumvent authentication controls, potentially allowing the attacker to take control of the affected server...  Adobe is aware of reports that four vulnerabilities (CVE-2013-0625, CVE-2013-0629, CVE-2013-0631 and CVE-2013-0632, referenced in Security Advisory APSA13-01) are being exploited in the wild against ColdFusion customers.

A 2012 audit at the Fed suggested that a monitoring system be put in place to review security at third-party systems.  It's possible the ECS system may fall under that category.

The Federal Reserve System is the backbone of the American banking industry, established before the Great Depression.  The oft-criticized institution is a strange mix of private and public parts.

On the public side, regional Fed banks are largely owned by nationally chartered commercial banks, which are required to be shareholders in their local branch.  On the other hand, the federal government selects and controls the salary of many of the system's top officials; indeed the President himself personally appoints Fed's Board of Governors.

II. Hackers Still Flaming Mad About Swartz's Death

Many members of the quasi-leaderless hacktivist group Anonymous have been vocal opponents of the Fed and the U.S. commercial banking industry in general, which they label as corrupt and exploitive.

The recent attack is part of the group's dramatically titled "OpLastResort".  The operation is a manifestation of the explosion of anger over the death of online activist Aaron Swartz.  Mr. Swartz, who designed the RSS, reportedly tragically committed suicide last month after fighting a long battle with depression and government harassment.

Federal prosecutors had investigated Mr. Swartz after he dumped 4 million papers from the JSTOR network.  JSTOR hosts peer-reviewed journal papers, most of which cost money to access.  Critics of Mr. Swartz's actions argue that journal fees help sustain the costly march of research in fields such as physics, biology, and genetics.  But his supporters argue that academic research should be free to all, not pent up in some ivory cage.

Aaron Swartz

Even some of his critics, though, balked at how the feds allegedly harassed him for the breach.  A pair of petitions to fire the prosecutors involved with the criminal case -- Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Heymann and his boss U.S. District Attorney Carmen Ortiz -- has been attracting substantial attention.  The petition to remove DA Ortiz has already received 25,000 signatures, meaning that President Barack Obama must respond to it.

III. Sabu to be Sentenced

In a related reminder, former LulzSec mastermind Hector Xavier Monsegur (handles: "Sabu", "Xavier DeLeon", and "Leon") is set to be sentenced on Feb. 22.  Mr. Monsegur had founded the sub-unit of Anonymous and in 2011 led it in hacking Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) several times and also breaching government sites.

Sabu 1
Hacker "messiah" Hector Monsegur, a former member of Anonymous's upper echelon is set to be sentenced later this month.  His sentence will likely be greatly reduced for his role in "snitching" on his fellow hackers.  [Image Source: Fox News]

Unbeknownst to his cohorts, Mr. Monsegur was located by the FBI and offered a plea deal.  The hacker accepted, and for the next few months continued to lead attacks, while allegedly serving as a double agent, feeding feds information that helped them track down other top members such as Topiary, a 19-year-old who was arrested in the UK's Shetland Islands.

The hacker was given a sentencing reprieve due to concerns about his safety and his ongoing cooperation with federal investigations.  He has plead guilty to 12 federal computer crimes, which carry a maximum theoretical sentence of 124-years.  It is likely that his sentences will at a bare minimum be reduced to being served consecutively (which greatly slashes his prison time -- for example Bank Fraud, one of his charged offenses, carries a maximum 30 year sentence).

Source: Reuters

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By Ammohunt on 2/8/2013 12:17:44 PM , Rating: -1
Many members of the quasi-leaderless hacktivist group Anonymous have been vocal opponents of the Fed and the U.S. commercial banking industry in general, which they label as corrupt and exploitive.

Reminds me of my hippie neighbor that complains about the evil corporate system aka "The System" that he feels is keeping him down preventing him from getting his architectural job even though he has a degree in architecture. I dunno maybe as a white guy its the 2 ft long dreads on his head? I will offer the same advice to the malcontent's that i offered him, that being if the evil corporate "system" is so bad why not actively participate in it and change it from the inside out? That is the best way to affect change period apply yourself become a part of management in an evil corporation then change it. But of course he like the other malcontent's would never do such a thing its much easier to protest, bitch about "the man" and work crappy jobs to get by or mooch of the guvmnt.

RE: Idea
By JasonMick (blog) on 2/8/2013 1:13:16 PM , Rating: 4
Reminds me of my hippie neighbor that complains about the evil corporate system aka "The System"
"I ain't a part of your system... my dad's not a phone. DUH!"

RE: Idea
By geddarkstorm on 2/8/2013 6:55:46 PM , Rating: 3
"Happy birthday to the groooouund!"

RE: Idea
By toyotabedzrock on 2/8/2013 4:52:11 PM , Rating: 2
The Libertarian wing of anonymous dislikes the FED. The progressive and liberal wings are more concerned about banks that interact with customers.

RE: Idea
By Milliamp on 2/8/2013 6:30:31 PM , Rating: 3
Meanwhile many of them also generally support obamacare, government run education, net neutrality legislation, municipal broadband etc.

Everyone wants a smaller government but then they want government expansion when it comes to their own pet issues.

RE: Idea
By roykahn on 2/10/2013 12:34:21 AM , Rating: 2
Everyone wants a smaller government but then they want government expansion when it comes to their own pet issues.

I'm glad you wrote that because it's mostly true. You want cheap oil & gas prices? Well guess what? You'll need a large army and a vast array of weaponry to control the Middle East. You'll need to provide military aid to countries like Israel, Egypt and Bahrain who do a lovely job of "maintaining stability". You'll also need to spend money to subsidize the oil and gas companies. Why don't we also remove any environmental protections so that the people and wildlife get sick from pollution. So keep enjoying your cheap fuel while the cost of doing so is conveniently ignored amidst cries of "protecting our freedom".

RE: Idea
By Armageddonite on 2/8/2013 7:27:04 PM , Rating: 2
Both groups are doing something wrong. Whether or not the target of the crime deserves it is irrelevant. It's rabid torch-bearing mob justice on a digital frontier.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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