SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's mass transit system prepared for renewed protests Monday, a day after hackers angry over blocked cell phone service at some transit stations broke into a website and posted company contact information for more than 2,000 customers.
The action by a hacker group known as Anonymous was the latest showdown between anarchists angry at perceived attempts to limit free speech and officials trying to control protests that grow out of social networking and have the potential to become violent.
Anonymous posted people's names, phone numbers, and street and email addresses on its own website, while also calling for a disruption of the Bay Area Rapid Transit's evening commute Monday.
BART officials said Sunday that they were working a strategy to try to block any efforts by protesters to try to disrupt the service.
"We have been planning for the protests that are said to be shaping up for tomorrow," BART spokesman Jim Allison said. He did not provide specifics, but said BART police will be staffing stations and trains and that the agency had already contacted San Francisco police.
The transit agency disabled the website, myBART.org, Sunday night after it also had been altered by apparent hackers who posted images of the so-called Guy Fawkes masks that anarchists have previously worn when showing up to physical protests.
The cyber attack came in response to the BART's decision to block wireless service in several of its San Francisco stations Thursday night as the agency aimed to thwart a planned protest over a transit police shooting. Officials said the protest had been designed to disrupt the evening commute.
Computer experts said the hackers appeared to exploit an obvious hole in the site's security. BART pays another company to operate the website that offers subscribers discounted tickets and keeps them apprised of events planned by the transit agency.
"I don't think Anonymous worked very hard," said Josh Shaul, chief technology officer of Application Security Inc., a New York-based data base security company. "This appears to be a low-tech attack. It's really very trivial to find these vulnerabilities."
A BART spokesman didn't immediately return an email message Monday morning.
"We are Anonymous, we are your citizens, we are the people, we do not tolerate oppression from any government agency," the hackers wrote on their own website. "BART has proved multiple times that they have no problem exploiting and abusing the people."
Allison described myBART.org as a "satellite site" used for marketing purposes. It's operated by an outside company and sends BART alerts and other information to customers, Allison said.
The names and contact info published by Sunday came from a database of 55,000 subscribers, he said. He did not know if the group had obtained information from all the subscribers, he said, adding that no bank account or credit card information was listed.
The BART computer problem was the latest hack the loosely organized group claimed credit for this year. Last month, the FBI and British and Dutch officials made 21 arrests, many of them related to the group's attacks on Internet payment provider PayPal Inc., which has been targeted over its refusal to process donations to WikiLeaks. The group also claims credit for disrupting the websites of Visa and MasterCard in December when the credit card companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.