Compliance Management, Privacy, Threat Management

Anonymous protests BART by way of web and street

The hacktivist group Anonymous took its fight off the internet and onto the streets of downtown San Francisco on Monday evening to protest the decision by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to briefly cut off cell phone access last week at four of its stations.

Anonymous helped organize the demonstration, which came one day after it claimed responsibility for hacking into to steal the personal information belonging to 2,400 riders. The data included names, email addresses and passwords, and in some cases home addresses and phone numbers, according to BART.

In a statement, Anonymous said it used basic SQL injection to pierce through the site and exfiltrate the data, which was stored in clear text. The group said "any 8-year-old with an internet connection" could have pulled off the attack, which Anonymous promised on Friday.

Meanwhile, Monday's physical protest, which began at the Civic Center station, resulted in authorities temporarily shuttering four BART stations in downtown San Francisco. All of the stations eventually reopened Monday night. There were roughly 100 demonstrators walking from station to station, according to police.

BART on Friday defended its decision to turn off cell phone service during last Thursday evening's commute over safety. The agency was concerned that a planned protest, set to rally against the July 3 shooting death of a 45-year-old man by a BART police officer, would get out of hand, and the demonstrators would use cell phones to communicate.

"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," said a Saturday statement.

Linton Johnson, a BART spokesman, did not return a call seeking comment about the agency's web security practices.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, compared BART's practice with that of the former oppressive regime in Egypt, which disabled internet service to protesters for several days in January.

"One thing is clear...cutting off cell phone service in response to a planned protest is a shameful attack on free speech," said the EFF statement. "BART officials are showing themselves to be of a mind with the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who ordered the shutdown of cell phone service in Tahrir Square in response to peaceful, democratic protests earlier this year."

The Federal Communications Commission is investigating, according to reports.

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