Hackers gain access to transit police union site
Thursday, August 18, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Hackers launched another online attack Wednesday against a California transit agency that found itself in the middle of a debate about free speech after it turned off cell phone service in its stations to thwart a potential protest.
This time, hackers gained access to the website of the union that represents Bay Area Rapid Transit police and posted personal information on more than 100 officers.
The officers’ home and email addresses were leaked along with passwords.
BART Police Deputy Chief Daniel Hartwig said his office was aware of the breach and referred inquiries to the BART Police Officers Association. Union president Jesse Sekhon didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The union’s website was disabled later in the day.
The hackers group Anonymous announced the most recent breach on Twitter and published the address of the website where the information could be found.
However, Anonymous didn’t immediately claim responsibility for the hack, as it did when it broke into BART’s marketing website last week and released the personal information of more than 2,000 customers.
“No one claimed responsibility for the hack,” Anonymous said in a Twitter post. “Some random joe joined a channel and released the data to the press.”
BART interim General Manager Sherwood Wakeman condemned the latest “attack on the working men and women of BART.”
“We are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our employees and their families,” he said in a prepared statement.
The two hacks came in apparent retaliation for BART cutting wireless communication in its San Francisco stations Thursday night to quell a brewing protest over a police shooting.
The agency took that action after demonstration organizers said they would issue last-minute instructions in text messages and on social networks about where to gather and disrupt the evening commute. The demonstration was planned over the July 3 BART police shooting and killing of Charles Blair Hill, 45. The police allege the transient lunged at them with a knife.
A demonstration on July 11 over the shooting disrupted the evening commute, as one protester scrambled on top of a train, halting all BART transit in San Francisco for 30 minutes.
The decision to cut wireless communication to head off another protest Thursday put the transit agency in the middle of a worldwide debate over free speech, social networks and public safety.
The action was compared unfavorably to Hosni Mubarak’s attempt to shut Internet access in Egypt before he was forced from office by mass demonstrations.
BART’s action is widely believed to be the first time a U.S. governmental agency cut wireless communication to quell a protest.
BART chief spokesman Linton Johnson said Tuesday it was his idea to cut the power, and the tactic was vetted by police and approved by the agency’s general manager, who previously served as BART’s top attorney.
Johnson defended the tactic as legal and appropriate to ensure a safe commute.
The planned protest never materialized Thursday and all trains were on time that night.
The Federal Communications Commission is looking into BART’s action while the FBI is investigating the hack of mybart.org last week.