Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 4, 2012

Anonymous hacks FBI conference call

Filed under: computers,repression — louisproyect @ 3:43 pm

NY Times February 3, 2012

F.B.I. Admits Hacker Group’s Eavesdropping


WASHINGTON — The international hackers group known as Anonymous turned the tables on the F.B.I. by listening in on a conference call last month between the bureau, Scotland Yard and other foreign police agencies about their joint investigation of the group and its allies.

Anonymous posted a 16-minute recording of the call on the Web on Friday and crowed about the episode in via Twitter: “The FBI might be curious how we’re able to continuously read their internal comms for some time now.”

Hours later, the group took responsibility for hacking the Web site of a law firm that had represented Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, who was accused of leading a group of Marines responsible for killing 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha, Iraq, in 2005. The group said it would soon make public “mails, faxes, transcriptions” and other material related to the case, taken from the site of Puckett & Faraj, a Washington-area law firm. A voluminous 2.55 gigabyte file labeled as those files was later posted on a site often used by hackers, Pirate Bay.

Regarding the conference call, an F.B.I. official said Anonymous had not in fact hacked into it or any other bureau facilities. Instead, the official said, the group had simply obtained an e-mail giving the time, telephone number and access code for the call. The e-mail had been sent on Jan. 13 to more than three dozen people at the bureau, Scotland Yard, and agencies in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. One recipient, a foreign police official, evidently forwarded the notification to a private account, he said, and it was then intercepted by Anonymous.

“It’s not really that sophisticated,” said the official, who would discuss the episode only on condition of anonymity. He said no Federal Bureau of Investigation system was compromised but noted that communications security was more challenging when agencies in multiple countries were involved.

“We’re always looking at ways to make our communications more secure, and obviously we’ll be taking a look at what happened here,” he said.

The bureau issued a brief statement confirming the intrusion, which was first reported by The Associated Press: “The information was intended for law enforcement officers only and was illegally obtained. A criminal investigation is under way to identify and hold accountable those responsible.”

The breach, clearly an embarrassment for investigators, is the latest chapter in a continuing war of words and contest of technology between hacking groups and their perceived opponents in law enforcement and the corporate world.

The F.B.I. e-mail titled “Anon-Lulz International Coordination Call” — a reference to Anonymous and to an allied group of hackers, Lulz Security — announced a conference call for investigators “to discuss the on-going investigations related to Anonymous, Lulzsec, Antisec, and other associated splinter groups.”

The recording posted on YouTube and elsewhere included American and British voices discussing suspects in the case. The call begins with banter between an American named Bruce and British officials named Stewart or Stuart and Matt, who are joined by another official from F.B.I. headquarters, Timothy F. Lauster Jr., who sent the e-mail announcing the conference call.

The conference call illustrates both the scale of the international police effort to identify and prosecute the hackers, and the striking contrast in age and status of the investigators and their targets: what seem to be middle-aged law enforcement officials on two continents are overheard dissecting the illicit activities of teenagers.

A British official refers to Ryan Cleary and Jake Davis, two British teenagers who have been arrested and are wanted in the United States on suspicion of having ties to Anonymous. The British official describes a 325-page report analyzing Ryan Cleary’s hard drive, and an F.B.I. agent in Los Angeles discusses various suspects and their nicknames.

The investigators also refer to several suspects who had not yet been arrested, including one who calls himself Tehwongz, described by the British official as “a 15-year-old kid who’s basically just doing this all for attention and is a bit of an idiot.”

The conversation was part of an international criminal investigation that began in 2010 after Anonymous championed WikiLeaks by mounting electronic attacks on MasterCard and PayPal and other sites that had stopped collecting donations for the antisecrecy organization.

Last month, Anonymous attacked the Web sites of the Justice Department and major entertainment companies in retaliation for criminal charges against the founders of Megaupload, a popular Internet service used to transfer music and movies anonymously.

The hackers could have penetrated the law-enforcement official’s personal e-mail account by guessing a weak password, sneaking into an unencrypted wireless network, or, most likely, with a common and relatively easy tactic known as a phishing attack, said Keith Ross, a computer science professor at Polytechnic Institute of New York University and a security expert. A phishing attack involves sending an e-mail that looks like it is from a friend or relative and persuading the recipient to click on a link that allows every keystroke entered on that particular computer to be recorded. Recording keystrokes is an efficient way to steal someone’s e-mail username and password.

“The real issue for law-enforcement officials is they need to be better educated about how they handle sensitive data on their e-mails,” Mr. Ross said. “It’s an easy vulnerability to crack. If you’re not careful it’s a very dangerous attack.”

The same methods may have been used to hack the Web site of the lawyers who represented Sergeant Wuterich, Neal Puckett and Haytham Faraj. Their Web site was defaced by the hackers to display a message from Anonymous saying it was exposing “the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of U.S. imperialism,” Gawker.com reported. Later, the site was taken down.

In an interview late Friday, Mr. Faraj said he thought that little of the material stolen from their site related to the Haditha case, though some documents might relate to a polygraph that he said Sergeant Wuterich had passed. He said he feared the documents might include a confidential statement from a rape victim in an unrelated case. “I think in their haste to put stuff out there, they’re going to hurt some people,” he said.

Mr. Faraj said he had represented Guantanamo detainees and had supported and offered to represent Pfc. Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of providing documents to WikiLeaks, suggesting that the hackers of Anonymous may be inadvertently attacking someone who shares some of their presumed political views. “They got the wrong guy,” he said.

He said the F.B.I. had contacted the law firm and opened an investigation.

Sergeant Wuterich, 31, pleaded guilty last month in a military court in California to dereliction of duty, telling the judge that he regretted ordering his men to “shoot first, ask questions later.” As part of a plea agreement, however, he received no prison time, though his rank was reduced to private. The sentence sparked anger in Iraq and among some human rights advocates, and the Anonymous message complained that Sergeant Wuterich had gotten “only a pay cut” as a penalty.

Somini Sengupta and Nicole Perlroth contributed reporting from San Francisco.



  1. The work “hacker” is such a loaded term. It usually implies “frivolous”, “mischievous”, “time on their hands”, etc. But when some “hackers” refer to “the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism”, it’s obvious why they are being targeted.

    Comment by uh...clem — February 4, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

  2. “word”, not “work”.

    Comment by uh...clem — February 4, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

  3. Hello,

    Hope all are well.

    The United States and their ‘allies’ feel free to do as they please. They would not hesitate to listen or tap a phone call any where in the world. In fact they do record not only every phone call but also every email and blogs like this. As exemplified in Iran they think it is perfectly righteous to assinate a scientist. We had a predetor drone ‘illegally’ flying in Iranian territory which was shot down. These crimes are committed by those wishing to enforce the law thus making a mockery of the same United States. Hypocrisy is the best words that comes to mind. “Do not do anything evil but we can,” is Uncle Sam’s motto. All the while cowardly leadrs and busnissmen sit in high concrete towers while young man kill and die for the lust of mammon. And don’t forget the torturing that we do, not just in Guantanomo, Lybia and Eastern Europe but all around the world. Yes even in the United States or America, main land. Machivelli is unleashed in these here parts.

    Yet there is a righteous and correct party which is the common man. The ordinary worker, citizen through out the world does not fantasize over acquiring unbridled material goods. Instead he hopes for a decent life and something better for his children. Man has been created in the image of God and is thus basically good. It is when you remove man from the natural that the evil abounds. When you take a man from the physical or real work that he does and have him supervise you create an unecessary position. We call it ‘white collar’. These people are good at having meetings, producing tremendous amounts of paper work and giving good excuses as to why they can’t pay the worker more money. They have in fact sold their souls to the company. What do financial firms or banks contribute to society? Or insurance companies? Do you have a 401 K? Your money is locked in for thirty years with the people who run it getting multi million dollars bonuses. Do you actually think there will be any money left when you retire? Somebody has to pay for all those salaries of the ‘do nothings’ who administrate.

    So what are we to think of the FBI? Well they did something call COINTELPRO. Allegedly they infiltrated groups for the securtiy of the United States. What in fact they did was destroy political freedom and not only violate the most precious principles of the United States but many laws as well. In fact they used blackmail, threatening the expose Martin Luther King’s adultery, lies, sending false letters to disrupt harmony in groups and in the case of Fred Hampton even murder. With the FBI protecting us we must ask who will protect us from the FBI? The FBI is in fact one of the most unAmerican institutes that exists. The F should stand for Fascism.

    Well Comrades there is a solution and it is called revolution. It must be a world wide irradication of capitalism and it’s more evil twin colonialism. And I am convinced that it can be done non violently. As a Christian I must mantain my Love of enemy. I will not as other so called ‘christians’ who make a mockery of the name of Christ. So called followers of ‘god’ who believe one can Love your enemey and still kill him. And to bring it home I am not like the ‘Christians’ in the United States FBI or CIA who instead of helping the oppressed in fact add more weight to their shackles. The day the FBI raids those Wall Street firms with a search warrant for cocaine and heroine I will know that they have begun to change from a sophisticated group of ‘patsies’.


    John Kaniecki

    Comment by johnkaniecki — February 4, 2012 @ 8:43 pm

  4. In the past I’ve been falsely accused of being a hacker, even although I have never hacked into anything except a piece of wood. Some people believed that the only way I could have known about something was through spying, a bit like teachers who catch out a student cheating in an exam.

    I think Americans have spied on me, even although I wasn’t even a US citizen, committed no crimes, and was not located in the US. But any reasonably versatile person is not particularly bothered by this.

    I don’t think the problem is so much with the spying itself. It is rather the theories which inform the spywork, and the policies which inspire the spywork, that we ought to be concerned about. I know hardly anybody, right or left, who has never spied in his life in any shape or form. What matters more is the real motivation behind it.

    Comment by Jurriaan Bendien — February 5, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

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