A database containing passwords, full names, email addresses, and home addresses could be valuable to marketing folks looking for potential customers, or to malicious minds that can use the data for selfish gain at the expense of people behind the data. It was this kind of data from the BART Police Union Web site that Anonymous members now claim they hacked yesterday and posted its contents online.
The hacking into the BART Public Officers Association website (BARTpoa.com) was the second after last Sunday’s intrusion into the myBART.org site, releasing usernames, complete names, addresses and phone numbers of more than 2,000 public commuters taking the BART system in the San Francisco area and who used the site to manage their accounts. The following Monday saw the site blank with a “renovation” message. And as of yesterday afternoon, the BARTpoa.com also went offline.
The two successive hacking sprees from Anonymous appear to be a measured retaliatory attack against BART authorities who shut down mobile phone services in its four substations Thursday the other week. The shutdown deprived more than hundreds of thousands of commuters from using their cellphones or contacting emergency services. This was done right before a planned protest action.
The agency claimed that riders had planned a disturbance rally that threatened its passengers. It will be recalled that BART, which deploys its own police force, was on the receiving end of criticisms after the fatal shooting of two men by its officers in the last two years. In 2009, it shot Oscar Grant in the back during a struggle with the police. Just recently, police shot and killed Charles Blair Hill, a 45-year old homeless man for no serious cause.
The collective Anonymous group consisting of hacker activists had made known it was launching “Operation BART,” with one account declaring that “they are going to show BART how to prevent a riot.”
This veiled threat comes after the ACLU of Northern California commented in a blog post last week that the shutdown was a “wrong response to political protests.” People have the natural right to speak out and both the First Amendment and the California constitution guarantee the right to free expression. As a consequence, the Federal Communications Commission will be reviewing the legality of BART’s move.