Christmas has always been about the spirit of sharing, spreading good will and let’s not forget the ?ho ho ho? of Santa, always the elusive, ?anonymous Santa.? Well, this year Mr. Clause is Anonymous as the gifts.
Christmas 2011 has been set ablaze by the activist hacker group Anonymous. The generous giver this time was a U.S. based security think tank, Stratfor. The group claimed to have hacked in and stolen thousands of emails, passwords and credit card details from the security company.
Stratfor is a Texas based security firm which provides political, economic and military analysis to help clients reduce risk, according to a description on its YouTube page. The client list includes the U.S. defence department, law enforcement agencies and media organizations. The hackers claim that they were able to obtain the information because the company did not encrypt it.
Stratfor later announced that its email and services would be suspended for some time. It also said the disclosure was ?merely a list of some of the members that have purchased out publications and does not comprise a list of individuals or entities that have a relationship with Stratfor.? Analysts think that this is simply ??damage control.?
Fred Burton, Stratfor’s vice president of intelligence, said the company had reported the intrusion to law enforcement and was working with them on the investigation. Stratfor has protections in place meant to prevent such attacks, he said.
“But I think the hackers live in this kind of world where once they fixate on you or try to attack you it’s extraordinarily difficult to defend against,” Burton said.
Jim, a self-proclaimed computer geek told arabiangazette.com that the ?web community? understands that Stratfor is down playing the whole incident as it is a huge embarrassment for the company. ?Imagine having your information compromised when you make a living trying to protect others??.
“Not so private and secret anymore?” Anonymous taunted in a message on Twitter, promising that the attack on Stratfor was just the beginning of a Christmas-inspired assault on a long list of targets.
Anonymous said that the client list that it had already posted was a small slice of the 200 gigabytes worth of plunder it stole from Stratfor and promised more leaks. Hours after publishing what it claimed was Stratfor’s client list, Anonymous tweeted a link to encrypted files online with names, phone numbers, emails, addresses and credit card account details.
“Not as many as you expected? Worry not, fellow pirates and robin hoods. These are just the `A’s,” read a message posted online that encouraged readers to download a file of the hacked information.
The main threat was not for the information about the companies and government agencies that subscribe to Stratfor?s newsletter, but to the individual employees who had subscribed. ? the big guns can take care of themselves, it?s the everyday person who would feel the brunt of it? Samuel James, an IT analyst from Texas told arabiangazette.com.
Wishing everyone a ?Merry LulzXMas?, the hacker group posted a link on Twitter to a site containing the email, phone numbers and credit number of a U.S. Homeland Security employee.
The employee, Cody Sultenfuss, said he had no warning before his details were posted.
“They took money I did not have,” he told The Associated Press in a series of emails, which did not specify the amount taken. “I think `Why me?’ I am not rich.”
There are others who have been caught in this web tangled web as well.
Barr, of Austin, Texas, recently retired from the Texas Department of Banking and said he discovered last Friday that a total of $700 had been spent from his account. Barr, who has spent more than a decade dealing with cybercrime at banks, said five transactions were made in total.
“It was all charities, the Red Cross, CARE, Save the Children. So when the credit card company called my wife she wasn’t sure whether I was just donating,” said Barr, who wasn’t aware until a reporter with the AP called that his information had been compromised when Stratfor’s computers were hacked.
“It made me feel terrible. It made my wife feel terrible. We had to close the account.”
Previously Lulz and Anonymous were into the hackathon for purely an ?adreline rush? just to prove to the world that they can still do it! However, somewhere down the line the intentions have changed and to some it seems almost ?chivalrous.?
An alleged member of Anonymous posted an online message, claiming that the group had used Stratfor clients’ credit card details to make “over a million dollars” in donations to different charities.
One member of the hacking group, who uses the handle AnonymousAbu on Twitter, claimed that more than 90,000 credit cards from law enforcement, the intelligence community and journalists ? “corporate/exec accounts of people like Fox” News ? had been hacked and used to “steal a million dollars” and make donations.
?They are internet pirates, with a good heart and a vision,? Joanna a grandmother living from Abu Dhabi told arabiangazette.com . ?They want to help those who are unable to help themselves.?
Anonymous warned it has “enough targets lined up to extend the fun fun fun of LulzXmas through the entire next week.” The hacking group seems nice rather than naughty this Christmas!
Note: You may be interested in our previous fascinating posts on Anonymous
Sources: HuffPost Tech, BBC