Anonymous spokesman charged with linking to stolen data

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A federal grand jury in Dallas has indicted the former spokesman of hacktivist group Anonymous, bringing a new barrage of charges against him – including 12 counts of device fraud, aggravated identify theft and trafficking stolen authentication features.

Specifically, Barrett Brown, 31, is accused of posting a link to credit card information allegedly stolen by Anonymous the 2011 hack of Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor. The company, which offers intelligence analysis for subscribers and clients, some of which are high-powered companies and government agencies, was compromised in early December 2011, which resulted in the exposure of some 90,000 credit card numbers.

Stratfor again was breached before the end of 2011, leading to the theft of 5.2 million emails and the destruction of the company's servers. Stratfor clients include the U.S. Defense Department, Lockheed Martin and Bank of America.

Brown faces the new charges from a prison in Texas, where he remains after his September arrest for threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video.

In the indictment, Brown, founder of think tank Project PM, is alleged to have transferred a link from an Anonymous-run internet relay chat (IRC) room to one under his own control.

By posting the link, Brown allegedly “caused the data to be made available to other persons online without the knowledge and authorization of Stratfor Global Intelligence and the card holders," according to the indictment.

If convicted of the new charges, Brown could face more than 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a release on the case from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Steven Roosa, a partner and co-chair of data privacy and security in the New York office of law firm Holland & Knight, said that the outcome of this case could be quite troubling.

“There seems to be a lot of buzz on this on the legal side of things,” Roosa told SCMagazine.com on Monday. “Not from just activists, but people who are troubled by the notion that copying a link could be an indictable offense. There's not specific guidance around that, or a specific statute about the reposting of a link on the web."

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