Hackers broke into a Web site for San Francisco’s mass transit system on Sunday and posted contact information for more than 2,000 customers, the latest showdown between anarchists angry at perceived attempts to limit free speech and officials trying to control protests that grow out of social networking and have the potential to become violent.
The hacker group known as Anonymous posted people’s names, telephone numbers and street and e-mail addresses on its own Web site, while also calling for a disruption of the Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) evening commute yesterday.
The transit agency disabled the affected Web site, myBART.org, on Sunday night after it also had been altered by apparent hackers who posted images of the so-called Guy Fawkes masks that anarchists have previously worn when showing up to physical protests.
The cyber attack came in response to the BART’s decision to block wireless service in several of its San Francisco stations on Thursday night as the agency aimed to thwart a planned protest over a transit police shooting. Officials said the protest had been designed to disrupt the evening commute.
“We are Anonymous, we are your citizens, we are the people, we do not tolerate oppression from any government agency,” the hackers wrote on their own Web site. “BART has proved multiple times that they have no problem exploiting and abusing the people.”
BART spokesman Jim Allison described myBART.org as a “satellite site” used for marketing purposes. It’s operated by an outside company and sends BART alerts and other information to customers, Allison said.
The names and contact info published by Sunday came from a database of 55,000 subscribers, he said. He did not know if the group had obtained information from all the subscribers, he said, adding that no bank account or credit card information was listed.
The BART computer problem was the latest hack the loosely organized group claimed credit for this year. Anonymous has worldwide adherents to calls from the group to deface and disrupt Web sites.
Last month, the FBI and British and Dutch officials made 21 arrests, many of them related to the group’s attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal, which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. The group also claims credit for disrupting the Web sites of Visa and MasterCard in December last year when the credit card companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and its frontman, Julian Assange.
The group also claims to have stolen e-mails from the servers of News Corp, which has been accused of hacking into voicemails of prominent news makers.
Anonymous also threatened on Friday to attack the Web site of the Fullerton Police Department, which is under fire after a mentally ill homeless man died following a violent confrontation with officers.
Fullerton Police Sergeant Mary Murphy said the department experienced no problems with its Web site, e-mail system and computer systems after taking “appropriate steps” after Anonymous made its threat.
Allison said that BART’s main Web site was protected from attacks as well.
BART’s decision to shut down wireless access was criticized by many as heavy handed and some raised questions about whether the move violated free speech.
The contretemps began on Thursday night when BART officials blocked wireless access to disrupt organization of a demonstration protesting the July 3 shooting death by BART police who said the 45-year-old victim was wielding a knife.