BART website breach exposes divisions within hacktivist group
- By William Jackson
- Aug 18, 2011
San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system has come under online attack for the second time this week with the BART police department’s website being taken off-line due to a breach that might — or might not — be the work of the Anonymous hacktivist organization.
Personal information on about 100 officers was apparently taken from the BART Police Officers Association site at BARTPOA.com and posted July 17 at Pastebin.com, which Anonymous has used in the past for publishing data taken from compromised IT systems.
Anonymous has an ongoing operation against BART as a result of the system’s decision Aug. 11 to disable cell phone service at some stations in an effort to disrupt planned protests. But whether the latest hack and information release are the work of the group remains an open question.
Anonymous strikes San Francisco's BART after cell shutdown fiasco
“FYI: No one claimed responsibility for the hack. Some random Joe joined
a channel and released the data to the press,” AnonyOps wrote on Twitter shortly after the data release. “The leak today of BART officer
data could be the work sanctioned by those who truly support Anonymous,
or agent provocateurs. Stay skeptical.”
In an apparent official statement, AnonyOps declared in a separate
posting on Pastebin.com that “Anonymous is not unanimous,” and that it
is impossible to confirm or deny actions taken under its name.
Anonymous is a libertarian hacking group (or groups) that opposes
government secrecy and corruption, primarily through online activism
that takes the form of breaching websites and IT systems and exposing
information. Its beef with BART stems from a fatal police shooting at a
station in July, which generated protests at BART stations. When the
transit system sought to deprive protesters of communications to
organize by shutting off power to station cell sites on Aug. 11,
Anonymous called the action censorship and responded with a hack against
BART websites. As of this writing, myBART.org is online but “under
The group’s Operation BART is listed as an ongoing operation on the
group’s website, and the breach of BARTPOA.com appears to be part of it.
But identifying an official Anonymous activity, or even defining the
group, is difficult.
“Most people think we're a group of shadowy hackers,” the AnonyOps post
says. “This is a fundamental flaw. Anonymous is groups of shadowy
hackers. The mainstream media needs to understand that Anonymous isn't
The post complains that much of the good activist work done by Anonymous
is ignored while “a destructive minority is getting a majority of the
According to the post, “Hacking isn't just about breaking into Web
servers and leaking data to the public. It is about learning more about
the technologies we use and social norms we are subject to. Don't let
the actions of a few skew your perception of hackers as a whole.”
William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.