4000 random US individuals employed in the banking industry, from branch officer to bank president, had their personal data posted on the Internet by the hacker organization Anonymous on Superbowl Sunday. The move came as one of a series of actions Anonymous carried out in response to the death of Aaron Swartz, a Harvard researcher who committed suicide after being convicted of computer and wire fraud for breaking into the MIT campus and downloading academic journals.
Besides contact details like phone numbers, the leaked information contained such hard-to-obtain data as logins, hashed passwords and even their salts (random characters added to hashed passwords to make them difficult to break). As per comments by security experts, the hackers would have had to dig really deep into the victims’ data to obtain such information, and this is what makes it so scary. So does the fact that the published list involves individuals from different types of financial institutions, which in a way is a confirmation that no information is completely secure nowadays against a well-organized hacker attack.
Anonymous states that the posted data was obtained from computers that belong to the Federal Reserve, which is something that is rejected as a possibility by experts in the field of cyber warfare, who claim that Anonymous members lack the skill it would take to break into the Federal Reserve. If the said experts are right, then the question remains – where could have the data come from? CONTACTID is cited as one other possible source, but no one can be sure or can give evidence to support any theories in this regard.
This latest attack is carried out within the larger campaign – Operation Last Resort, which was launched by Anonymous with the ultimate goal of reforming the US computer crime law, and had the death of hacker and digital rights activist Aaron Swartz as a catalyst. Since the launch of this campaign, Anonymous has had the feds caught up in a game of cat-and-mouse with the hackers who have taken control of one government website after another. Starting with the US Sentencing Commission’s website, the group has then hacked two other .gov sites turning them into a mocking game of Asteroids, and finally placed the bankers’ list on another government website belonging to the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center.
The video posted by Anonymous to the US Sentencing Commission’s website was watched by over 1 million people. With these acts, the group shows its determination to influence the federal government one way or another, and by the looks of it, they may well succeed.