Nomaan Merchant,Raphael G. Satter, Associated Press
Sunday, August 7, 2011
The group known as Anonymous said Saturday it has hacked into some 70 mostly rural law enforcement websites in the United States, a breach that one local police chief said had leaked information about an ongoing investigation.
The loose-knit international hacking collective posted a cache of data to the Web early Saturday, including e-mails stolen from officers, tips that appeared to come from members of the public, credit card numbers and other sensitive information. Anonymous said it had stolen 10 gigabytes worth of data in all.
Tim Mayfield, a police chief in small-town Gassville, Ark., said some of the material posted online - pictures of teenage girls in their swimsuits - related to an ongoing investigation, which he declined to discuss further.
Mayfield's comments were the first indication that the hack might be serious. Since news that some kind of an attack first filtered out last week, various police officials dismissed it as nothing to worry about.
"We've not lost any information," was one typical response, given by McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy to WDEF-TV in Tennessee on Tuesday.
But many of Guy's e-mails were among those leaked to the Web on Saturday, and others seen by the Associated Press carried sensitive information, including tips about suspected crimes, profiles of gang members, and security training.
The e-mails were mainly from sheriffs' offices in places such as Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Mississippi. Most, if not all, of their websites were either unavailable or had been wiped clean of content.
Anonymous said in a statement that it was leaking "a massive amount of confidential information that is sure to (embarrass), discredit and incriminate police officers across the US."
The group also posted five credit card numbers it said it used to make "involuntary donations."
In Arkansas, St. Francis County Sheriff Bobby May said his department and several others were targeted in retaliation for the arrest of hackers who had targeted Apple Computer Inc., among other companies.
"It's an international group who are hacking into law enforcement websites across the nation is my understanding," May said, adding that the FBI was investigating the attacks.
Anonymous has increasingly been targeted by law enforcement in the United States and elsewhere following a string of high-profile data thefts and denial of service attacks - operations that block websites by flooding them with traffic.
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 Inc., which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks.
This article appeared on page A - 10 of the San Francisco Chronicle