Hacker group Anonymous strikes BART website, protesting 'censorship' 

Making good Sunday on its promise to attack BART’s website in a “censorship” protest, the shadowy Internet activist group Anonymous defaced the transit agency’s myBART site with its logo and released personal information — including passwords — of at least 2,400 of the site’s users.

By Sunday evening, BART had disabled the site. Agency spokesman Jim Allison confirmed it was taken down, but could not say when it would return.

“We’ll bring it back only when we’re confident everyone’s information is secure,” he said.

Anonymous said Saturday it would shut down BART’s website at noon Sunday in one of several actions planned against the transit agency in response to BART’s brief shutdown of underground cellphone service last week.

A protest of recent fatal shootings by BART police had been planned for Thursday, but failed to materialize when BART officials — hoping to prevent protesters from communicating about police locations — shut down cellphone service in stations for about three hours. That action has been criticized by politicians and free-speech advocates.

Shortly after noon Sunday, the Anonymous logo appeared on the website myBART.org, with a link to the group’s Twitter feed. On a separate website, the group posted what it said was the site’s “Info User Database,” which included names, addresses, phone numbers, email accounts and account passwords.

“I think it’s an invasion of my privacy,” said William Hulsebos of San Francisco, whose name and password appeared on the list. “That’s really sad; I’m actually glad you called. I have that password on a couple of things, and I guess we’ll have to start changing the password around.”

MyBART, which has 55,000 users, informs members of activities throughout the Bay Area that they can attend via BART. The main website, bart.gov, was unharmed as of press time Sunday.

The website that published users’ names said the hacking was done because “BART doesn’t give a s--- 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.”

Twitter users responded to the news by the hundreds, some supporting the action and others expressing reservations. One commenter wrote that though he had previously supported Anonymous, the release of personal information was “ridiculous.”

“It doesn’t matter that BART didn’t secure their info,” wrote Crappy Tires. “You released the info at the end of the day. That hurts private citizens.”

Allison said his agency hopes to notify people whose information was compromised. He noted that the hacked website infrastructure is separate from the computer network used for BART service operations, and no one’s financial information is stored on myBART.

Allison said BART is working with the FBI and U.S. Homeland Security Department in connection with the hacking.

Anonymous has called for a peaceful protest of BART “censorship” and police at 5 p.m. today at the Civic Center station.

Allison promised an increased presence by BART police, but would not say whether another shutdown of cellphone service is planned.

“I’m not ruling it out,” Allison said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes to try to maintain a safe environment for passengers in the paid area.”

Anonymous is a loosely affiliated international collective of hackers who typically get involved in computer-related issues, including support for WikiLeaks.

aburack@sfexaminer.com

Anonymous leaves its mark around the Net

January 2008:
War on Church of Scientology begins with hackers flooding the religious group’s servers with fake data requests after the church tried to censor Internet postings of famous member Tom Cruise.

March 2008:
Hackers infiltrate the Epilepsy Foundation’s website to trigger seizures in users who are photo- and pattern-sensitive; it’s the first time the hackers inflict physical harm.

April 2009:
Time magazine’s online poll of the Top 100 most influential people is rigged; “Moot,” aka Christopher Poole, who runs website 4chan, receives 16 million votes.

July 2010:
The Oregon Tea Party is attacked for using the slogan, “We are Anonymous. We are Legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us” on its Facebook page, which received an onslaught of images and flames from the hackers; within hours, the Oregon group apologized and removed its Facebook profile.

August:
Anonymous threatens to take down social networking giant Facebook in November.

Aug. 14:
Anonymous takes over myBART.org and releases information on about 2,000 users.

Sources: Wired, Escapist magazines

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Ari Burack

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