As Bustle recently reported, Anonymous is a busy bunch. The group of loosely connected hacktivists has been working on projects as diverse as fighting child abuse at boarding schools, seeking justice for murdered toddler Savannah Cross, and raising awareness for the sexually assaulted 14-year-old, Daisy Coleman, of Maryville, Missouri. Now, Reuters reports that the collective has also been secretly hacking into U.S. government computers in multiple agencies for over a year now, gathering secret and sensitive information in retaliation for the government's harsh anti-hacktivist crackdown.
The campaign — part of 'Operation Last Resort' — reportedly began last December, when a few hackers found a flaw in Adobe Systems Inc's software, and has continued until as recently as last month, with hackers stealing the details of almost 20,000 bank accounts. Anonymous also accessed the personal information of roughly 104,000 employees of the Department of Energy (as well as their family members, contractors, and anyone else connected to the department). The campaign reportedly targeted the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Army as well, but the details remain obscured.
"The majority of the intrusions have not yet been made publicly known," the FBI said in a memo."It is unknown exactly how many systems have been compromised, but it is a widespread problem that should be addressed."
'Operation Last Resort' gained some publicity at the beginning of this year, when Anonymous hacked into and took control of several Federal websites, threatening to leak secret government information, as a response to the government's unforgiving prosecution of hacktivists and hackers — at the time, the case of Anonymous group member Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide before a trial over illegally downloading JSTOR articles, was particularly pertinent.
The situation is still incredibly relevant.As recently as this Friday, an Anonymous hacktivist, Jeremy Hammond, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for aiding cyber attacks against government agencies and corporations: two years ago, Hammond gained access to 60,000 credit-card numbers and used them to accumulate roughly $700,000 in "donations” to nonprofits.
"They have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me," Hammond told The Guardian Sunday."A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face.”
Hammond also made a bigger claim: that the FBI may have actually manipulated him into hacking "dozens” of foreign government website via “Sabu”, the leader of an Anonymous-affiliated group, who turned out to be an FBI informant.
According to the Guardian, "Sabu" gave Hammond a list of targets that included multiple foreign government sites, and encouraged him to hack into their systems. "It is kind of funny that here they are sentencing me for hacking Stratfor, but at the same time as I was doing that an FBI informant was suggesting to me foreign targets to hit," Hammond said. "So you have to wonder how much they really care about protecting the security of websites.”
The U.S. government has, of course, recently come under fire for spying on several foreign allies, including tapping the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It's not such a stretch to believe that the FBI would take advantage of the extraordinay hacktivisit power of Anonymous — if nothing else, though, pot, kettle, black, anyone?