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Anonymous Hackers Protest BART, Deface Web Site

Stefanie Hoffman

The global hacker collective Anonymous said in a blog post Sunday that they planned to organize a peaceful demonstration at San Francisco's Civic Center BART station to protest the decision to shut down mobile services for three hours Thursday in anticipation of a protest in response to a violent outburst between the transportation agency’s police and a homeless person.

Civil rights advocates and other individuals had planned to gather at San Francisco’s Civic Center Station Thursday to vocalize opposition to the fatal shooting of Charles Hill, a homeless man who confronted BART police with a knife.

“In the Bay Area, we’ve seen people gagged, and once more, Anonymous will attempt to show those engaging in the censorship what it feels like to be silenced," said Anonymous in a blog post Sunday. “You do not censor people because they wish to speak out against the wrongs the wrongful things occurring around them. The Bay Area Rapid Transit has made the conscious decision of ordering various cell phone companies to terminate services for the downtown area inhibiting those in the area from using cell phones -- even in the case of an emergency.”

BART has since under fire from civil liberty organizations and free speech advocates criticizing the transportation agency for suspending mobile phone coverage in several stations. In particular, critics maintained that BART’s decision to cut off mobile communication could seriously compromise riders’ safety if they couldn’t call out for help in the event of an emergency.

Meanwhile, BART authorities issued an alert Sunday that a cyber attack had defaced MyBART.org ,the transportation system’s marketing Web site, compromising the personal information of more than 2,400 users. The cyber attack forced the MyBART.org Web site to shut down for several hours on Sunday.

“Today myBART.org account information was compromised in connection with an illegal and unauthorized intrusion into the myBART system. In response to this intrusion, we have temporarily shut down the myBART.org website, and have notified law enforcement authorities,” according to a BART blog post Sunday.

As part of the cyber attack, Anonymous hackers published thousands of BART customer names, addresses, e-mail addresses and phone numbers from the transportation system’s marketing Web site MyBART.org, designed to promote BART ridership and offer information about news and events in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“Although we are still investigating the details of this incident, we know that an unauthorized person has obtained contact information from at least 2,400 of our 55,000 members," BART said in a blog post. "In most cases, the information consists of names, email addresses, and passwords. In some cases, the database also listed an address and phone numbers.”

However, BART officials said that no financial information, such as credit card data, was stored in the MyBART database and compromised.

Anonymous Hackers Protest BART Mobile StanceAnonymous hackers said they launched the cyber attack in response to BART's decision to cut off mobile service, which they claimed was a strong arm tactic that violated human rights and safety.

“We sincerely hope that this series of actions will serve as a warning to BART and every public organization in the USA to NOT engage in this sort of dangerous and human rights violating behavior,” Anonymous hackers said in a pastebin blog post .

However, BART officials said that halting mobile service was conducted in order to ensure customer safety.

"Organizers planning to disrupt BART service on August 11, 2011 stated they would use mobile devices to coordinate their disruptive activities and communicate about the location and number of BART Police,” according to a BART blog post Friday . “A civil disturbance during commute times at busy downtown San Francisco stations could lead to platform overcrowding and unsafe conditions for BART customers, employees and demonstrators. BART temporarily interrupted service at select BART stations as one of many tactics to ensure the safety of everyone on the platform."

Meanwhile, BART spokesperson Jim Allison said in a statement that the transportation agency was currently in the process of notifying affected customers about the breach.

In addition, BART officials advised users to be vigilant of e-mail, phone and mail scams, while recommending that they change login credentials if they use their myBART username and password for other accounts or services.

Officials also encouraged users to carefully review account statements and monitor credit reports to protect against possible identity theft or fraud.

BART officials have since enlisted the help of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to further investigate the attack, contending that disruptive cyber attacks could likely occur again.

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